In two months, 68 Christians are killed in Nigeria’s Benue State


In a report sent to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the bishop of Makurdi complains of inaction by the federal government and lists the urgent needs of thousands among the 1.5 million people who have been forced from their homes.

“Naturally, having to live with such a situation has been very terrible for me and my people,” said Bishop Wilfred Chikpa Anagbe.

At the heart of the problem are persistent attacks by terrorists from the Fulani tribe, who are mostly Muslim, who target predominantly Christian farming communities in the central region of Nigeria. The reasons for the attacks are complex. Conflicts between nomadic herders and settled farmers date back centuries, but the influx of high-grade firearms over the past several years has made the attacks much more deadly and destructive.

The religious dimension aggravates the situation in a country evenly divided between a majority Christian south and a mostly Muslim north, with most of the clashes taking place in the central region, which also possesses the most fertile land. According to the bishop, the terrorists disguise themselves as nomadic herdsmen to cover the true intent of their attacks, which, he said, is to drive Christians from their lands.

Mass burial in the Diocese of Makurdi (photo courtesy of the diocese)

The situation has caused “unbearable severe food shortages,” said the bishop, explaining that “Benue State is known as the food basket of the nation but the terrorism has affected the food supply situation.” As a result, farmers who could usually support themselves and their families are now having to survive on charity.

“The situation of want has reduced many to a condition unworthy of human dignity, often relying on food rations contributed by others whose economic condition is not better off in any way.”

Makurdi currently houses 80 percent of the displaced in Benue State, and despite financial difficulties, the local Church has done its best to relieve suffering and need, providing food assistance and essential goods. Recently, the Justice, Development and Peace Commission distributed food and clothing to more than 1,800 people in one camp alone. The diocese also provides scholarships to dozens of displaced children, so that they do not miss out on the opportunity for an education.

However, the instability of the region makes it difficult, and the bishop himself said that “for some years now I have not been able to carry out pastoral activities in parts of my diocese.”

“Alongside all our initiatives, we have not forgotten the pastoral care that these persons deserve. There is a parish in the settlement areas that caters to the spiritual needs of the IDPs,” the bishop concluded, adding that he is still hoping to purchase a mobile clinic to help address the health and psycho-social needs of the displaced.

The problems with Fulani herdsmen, armed groups and Islamic extremists in Nigeria have been going on for several years, but the Church has complained that government inaction has made the situation worse.

According to the bishop, “the scale of killings, displacement, and wanton destruction of property by these Fulani jihadist militia only buttresses the now revealed agenda to depopulate Christian communities in Nigeria and take over lands. Tellingly, the government in power in Nigeria continues to do nothing about these persistent attacks, save to give laughable reasons like ‘climate change’ or to say that some Muslims too are sometimes killed in attacks by so-called bandits.”

Abandoned by local authorities, the Church is grateful for the support it has received from ACN, which Bishop Anagbe describes as “a source of light in a valley of darkness”.

ACN continues to support the local Church, which suffers from poverty and from persecution in many parts of the country. In 2021, the organization financed 105 projects in Nigeria. ACN also provides a platform of information about the suffering of Christians and helps local Church authorities to speak out at international events on issues such as religious freedom and Christian persecution.

—Felipe D’ Avillez