Christians in central Nigeria are holding a series of prayer vigils across the region, after a wave of attacks on their communities left more than 350 dead and 80,000 displaced in one state alone.
Plateau State sits on the dividing line between Nigeria's mostly Muslim north and the predominantly Christian south and has for years been a flashpoint for tensions.
The sustained attacks on Christian farmers in Plateau State have been described by its governor as “an operation to decimate our population.” The violence has continued unabated since May with the Nigerian Army only moving in to restore order last weekend.
Mangu Local Government Area has been the epicentre of the violence with extremist Fulani who are traditionally cattle herders, looting and burning the homes of Christians and killing them as they try to escape.
Simon described how he and his family only just survived an attack on his community on July 1 :
“We were surrounded by Fulani militants. I just escaped. Two of my neighbours were killed. My wife and children narrowly escaped.
“I saw the extremists with my own eyes, they burnt our food, mattress, cushions, palm oil. Everything I owned; they burnt it. All I have now is the clothes on my body.”
According to sources at Open Doors, a charity which campaigns on behalf of persecuted Christians, the attacks have been happening almost every day in different communities around the local government area of Mangu, Plateau State with the neighbouring local government areas of Barkin-Ladi and Riyom also affected.
Another survivor Danladi described an attack on his village. “It was at night,” he said. “We were just at home when they surrounded the whole community. They came and started shooting. They killed many of us, we escaped narrowly. Our houses have been burnt, we are still living with stress.”
Danladi, who has been left with nothing after all his possessions were burnt added: “We are calling on Christians all over and those in Nigeria to come to our rescue.”
Speaking last weekend, Plateau State Governor, Caleb Mutfwang told journalists: “What we are witnessing here is a meticulously planned operation to decimate our population. It is crucial to recognise that this isn’t merely a farmers-versus-herders clash, as traditionally portrayed. This is a situation where innocent villagers are attacked during the night while they sleep.”
Nigeria is number six on Open Doors’ World Watch List, an annual ranking of countries where it is most dangerous to be a Christian.