Nigerian bishop denounces government inaction in face of Fulani attacks

“THIS IS A TIME BOMB that threatens to ignite the entire region.” This is how Bishop William Amove Avenya of the Diocese of Gboko, Nigeria, described ongoing attacks on Christian communities by mostly Muslim Fulani herdsmen. The assaults are largely taking place in the country’s so-called Middle Belt. The Gboko Diocese is located in the majority Christian Benue State, which is part of the Middle Belt.

Aid to the Church in Need supports the suffering and persecuted Church around the world, including in Nigeria, where Christians face attacks my Fulani herdsmen.
A Fulani herdsman (CSN photo)

“Fulani tribesman, armed to the teeth, are murdering pregnant women and children and destroying our smallholdings,” the bishop charged, noting that ever since 2010 the Christian villages have been the target of violent attacks by the nomadic, Muslim Fulani herdsman from the Sahel region; and the attackers are armed with modern weaponry, which raises the suspicion that the herdsmen are receiving outside support. The result has been thousands killed and numerous communities forced to evacuate. “The Fulani have claimed far more victims during 2018 than Boko Haram, but no one is doing anything about it,” said Bishop Avenya.

The bishop said that the Nigerian authorities are simply not taking the necessary measures to address the violence. He denounced the silence of both the government and the media. He charged that European Union politicians likewise “seem poorly informed about the situation in our country and about the threat posed by the Fulani, who have been supplied with modern weapons of a kind not used by simple herdsmen. We need to ask who is behind this.”

Earlier this fall, Bishop Avenya issued an appeal to the international community, urging it “not to wait for a genocide to happen before intervening.” In addition, the Nigerian bishops’ conference on numerous occasions has called on Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to provide effective guarantees for the safety of his people—or, if he is unable to do so, to resign. Meanwhile, the violence continues and President Buhari is running for another term in office, with a presidential vote slated for February 2019.

“The Church continues to try and heal the wounds,” Bishop Avenya said, adding: “We have not lost hope, but we do need help.”

—Thomas Oswald & Maria Lozano