The Massacre of Northern Nigeria’s Christians
Deborah is a 31-year-old Nigerian Christian living in an Internally Displaced Persons (idp) camp. Her body is covered with healing scars; however, her mind still bears many open wounds. In her arms is a nine-month-old baby: the symbol of her hope and future.
After her husband and family were murdered, she was forced to convert to Islam and marry a 20-year-old Boko Haram soldier. Eventually, she escaped. But not for long. After being recaptured, she was lashed 80 times and then raped for abandoning her husband. After 18 months of captivity, she is now free. However, thousands of women in northern Nigeria will never fill their lungs with the sweet air of freedom ever again.
An unreported humanitarian crisis has exploded in northern Nigeria. Boko Haram and Islamic Fulani tribesmen have been systematically massacring Christians living in the region. Villages are ransacked on a near daily basis, leaving hundreds displaced, enslaved or dead. Douglas Murray investigated the horrors firsthand and wrote a piece for the Spectator titled “Who Will Protect Nigeria’s Northern Christians?” In the article, he reported:
Another day in northern Nigeria, another Christian village reeling from an attack by the Muslim Fulani herdsmen who used to be their neighbors—and who are now cleansing them from the area. The locals daren’t collect the freshest bodies. Some who tried earlier have already been killed, spotted by the waiting militia and hacked down or shot. The Fulani are watching everything closely from the surrounding mountains. Every week, their progress across the northern states of Plateau and Kaduna continues. Every week, more massacres—another village burned, its church razed, its inhabitants slaughtered, raped or chased away. A young woman, whose husband and two children have just been killed in front of her, tells me blankly, “Our parents told us about these people. But we lived in relative peace, and we forgot what they said.”
The plight of Nigeria’s Christians is a grisly reminder of what happens when Western nations fail to stop the rise of radical Islam and protect the world’s defenseless.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and the continent’s greatest oil producer. The country, however, suffers from a less ideal strategic location. While being the greatest power in west-central Africa, there has been little interest from Western nations to intervene, especially with the crises in Syria and Libya.
The main threat to Nigerian stability has been religious tumult. The nation straddles the Islamic regions of Sahara and sub-Saharan Africa and the converted Christian populations of former European colonies. Murray continued his report:
For the outside world, what is happening to the Christians of northern Nigeria is both beyond our imagination and beneath our interest. These tribal-led villages, each with their own “paramount ruler,” were converted by missionaries in the 19th and 20th centuries. But now these Christians—from the bishop down—sense that they have become unsympathetic figures, perhaps even an embarrassment, to the West. The international community pretends that this situation is a tit-for-tat problem, rather than a one-sided slaughter. Meanwhile, in Nigeria, the press fails to report or actively obscures the situation. Christians in the south of the country feel little solidarity with their co-religionists suffering from this Islamic revivalism and territorial conquest in the north. And worst of all, the plight of these people is of no interest to their own government. In fact, this ethnic and religious cleansing appears to be taking place with that government’s complicity or connivance.
The current Nigerian president is a Fulani Muslim. While the government and army do not actively support the Fulani tribesmen or Boko Haram, they don’t actively protect the Christian minorities in the north either. There is also evidence that independent sects of the army supply the Fulani tribes with weapons.
A villager takes me to the bridge where the village leader and 13 others were recently gunned down in a Fulani ambush. Nigerian army troops watched the whole thing from their base a couple of hundred yards away—just as they did the destruction of another Christian village, the remains of which sit, burned out and silent, right opposite them. The army seems to have no interest in protecting the Christians, while the government in Abuja appears to care more about passing new laws on cattle-rustling than on protecting human lives. When challenged after a massacre, soldiers often claim that they didn’t receive any orders—or had been commanded not to intervene.
In a line that’s parroted by some [nongovernmental organizations] ngos, the government says that this is a land or agricultural dispute. Yet it is the Christian communities who are being systematically forced off it. If anybody wanted to find the culprits, they could find them living and farming on the land they have stolen. But such arrests never happen. The complicity between the army and the Fulani is obvious. Between Barakin-Ladi and Riyom—in sight of another army post—is a sacked Christian village, which locals say now acts as a Fulani arms dump. The world’s indifference gives the Nigerian government the advantage in what looks like a quiet effort to rid northern Nigeria of its Christians.
The violence is motivated by religious fervor, the desire for productive farmland, and political revenge (since the previous president was a Christian). Thus the Christians of northern Nigeria must face their fiery trial alone, with no prospect of Western intervention. In fact, the greatest extent of help from the West was in 2014. After Boko Haram kidnapped nearly 300 girls, the Obama administration backed the “bring back our girls” Twitter campaign. This did nothing for those girls, most of whom are still missing. Other specialists were sent out to help the Nigerian authorities, but both attempts were token gestures. Since 2014, the rise of radical Islam and the plight of the Nigerian Christians have vanished from the news headlines.
Should the United States, Europe or any nation care about the plight of Nigeria’s northern Christians? While this crisis does not rank high on the list of fires burning around the world, the situation does hold significant ramifications. Richard Palmer wrote in a 2014 Trumpet article titled “Radical Islam Explodes in Nigeria”:
Nonetheless the violence in Nigeria is a warning for Europe. France is reaching the limits of what it can do, and what it can afford to do in Africa. If Europe is going to take over from the U.S. as the world’s policeman, or at least security guard for its local area, it is going to have to unify and upgrade its military. No single nation has the air-transport capacity for repeated African missions, for example. America operates over 700 large transport planes. Britain, having one of Europe’s most capable militaries, operates under 50.
Part of the reason for this is temporary—Airbus is late delivering its newest transport planes, meaning old aircraft had to be retired before their replacements arrived. But it also shows the need for Europe to work together if it’s going to fill America’s shoes. Only then can it muster up anything close to the necessary logistical support. With radical Islamist violence popping up all over North Africa, Europe is going to have to get its act together soon, or radical Islam will threaten some of its vital interests in the area. The violence in Nigeria shows that radical Islam is becoming entrenched across the region, sustaining pockets of unrest hundreds of miles apart. Europe can no longer rely on America to fix the problem. Watch for the EU to develop its own capacity.
The massacre of Nigeria’s Christians by Boko Haram and the Fulani tribesmen further destabilize the region and serve as an example of inaction by the U.S. While America agonizes over Islamophobia, Christians are slaughtered in Nigeria. Undoubtedly, this will not sit well with Christian Europe. With Russia becoming antagonistic in Eastern Europe, Britain set to leave the EU, and the U.S. threatening to limit global intervention, any resistance to European military integration will be swept away by necessity.
The massacres in northern Nigeria are a grisly reminder that defenseless people will suffer if the U.S. or Europe do nothing to counteract the rampant expansion of radical Islam’s power. It is a terrifying example of what to expect if radical Islam dominates Christian populations. As Europe still struggles with terrorism in its own borders, Nigeria stands as a bloody monument to inaction. You can count on Europe to not stand on the sidelines much longer in the Middle East and Africa. To learn more on this emerging future, watch the Trumpet Daily program titled “The Coming Religious War in the Middle East.”