Nigerian Pastors Say Military Being Used as 'Hired Mercenaries' in Attacks Against Christians
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During a recent meeting with Nigeria's president, Christian leaders suggested that the country's military is complicit in attacks on Christians.
Violence against Christians in Nigeria has escalated in recent months.
According to Open Doors USA, Christians in the northern and Middle Belt regions suffer from violence perpetrated by Islamic militant groups. Death, physical injury and loss of property are commonplace.
On Nov. 6, Rev. Dacholom Datiri, president of the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN), issued a report to President Muhammadu Buhari claiming that 646 Christians in one state alone were killed from the period of March through October 2018.
"The narrative has been that these people are killed by unknown gunmen, or suspected herdsmen, or that there have been farmer-herders clashes," Datiri said in the report, obtained by Morning Star News. "All these are deceptive narratives deliberately framed to conceal the truth and continue to perpetrate the evil."
Datiri went on to say the truth is that Muslim Fulani militias armed with AK47s and other high-powered weapons have killed Christians.
"After the attacks, it is the Fulani herders that settle and graze their cattle on the farms of the victims," Datiri said in the report to the president. "The proficiency and mode of operation in all of these attacks, as testified by the surviving victims, leaves us in no doubt of the complicity of the military being used as hired mercenaries by the Fulani militias. On this, we are disappointed, and sadly so, that the government has not delivered on her constitutional responsibility of protecting lives and property."
Earlier this year, CBN News reported the new wave of violence against Christains in Nigeria.
"It's happening more in the middle-belt of the country," CBN Nigeria Director Felix Oisamoje said in an interview in July. "The reason simply because the Fulani herdsmen take their cattle into people's farmlands, they eat of their crops on the farm and when the people challenge them, then before you know they respond with AK-47s," he explained.
Oisamoje said most Fulani herdsmen cannot afford the cost of an AK-47.
"Given what an AK-47 goes for, a Fulani herdsman would need to sell all of his cattle to be able to buy an AK-47," he said.
Emmanuel Ogebe is an international human rights attorney and a Christian. He said several theories exist about where the herdsmen are getting AK-47s and other small arms like mortars and grenades. He explained that many arms became readily available as they spread throughout Africa following the fall of Libya's Moammar Gaddafi.
"But even more sinister is the fact that a lot of these cattle are owned by very rich Fulanis who are in government and who are in power. So, there is a strong belief that the Fulanis, the ruling elite are actually funding the herdsmen to conduct these attacks," said Ogebe.
Ogebe alleges the Nigerian government has used aircraft against Christian villagers who have tried to defend themselves against the Fulani herdsmen attacks.
Oisamoje told CBN News that pressure from the US and the international community can make a difference in helping to protect the lives of Christians. But he also asks that Christians pray for their brothers and sisters in Christ in Nigeria.
"I think one of the things we need the most is prayers… whatever is going on right now has some kind of spiritual underpinnings and I believe if we begin to deal with it from that point, it makes it easier," Oisamoje explained. "After all, the Bible tells us that we do not war against flesh and blood, so we know there are spiritual issues, so we need to pray."
According to Open Doors, Nigeria ranks 14th on its list of countries where Christians suffer persecution the most.
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