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10 Christians, including pregnant woman, massacred in Nigeria's Plateau State

by Tola Mbakwe
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file picture of attacks in Bokkos, Plateau State, over Christmas 2023 © Aid to the Church in Need

It’s been reported that ten Christians, including a pregnant woman and her unborn child, were recently brutally killed in Nigeria's Middle Belt.

The attacks on 1st April spanned across three communities within St Thomas the Apostle Parish in Bokkos, Plateau State.

Fr Andrew Dewan, director of communications in the Pankshin Diocese where the atrocities occurred, told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) about the horrifying scene where a pregnant woman was specifically targeted, and her stomach slit open.

This latest massacre follows a deadly pattern witnessed over Christmas when suspected Fulani militants embarked on a four-day killing spree from 23rd December, resulting in more than 300 Christian deaths across 26 villages in Bokkos.

Fr Andrew said eye witness believe the Easter Monday killings may have been acts of revenge linked to earlier conflicts involving local communities and Fulani youths.

The cycle of violence has left many locals desperately seeking ways to defend themselves amidst what they perceive as inadequate government security responses. In times of crisis, communities have increasingly sought refuge in churches, which are struggling to cope with the influx of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

In the aftermath of the Christmas massacre, 16 camps for IDPs were established primarily by the Church to offer shelter to those displaced by the attacks. With the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimating around 3.1 million IDPs across Nigeria due to ongoing insurgency and attacks by extremist groups, the crisis continues to escalate.

Fr Andrew emphasised the role of faith and pastoral care amid the crisis.

“It’s for us to sustain our preaching on the Gospel values, and exhort the government to safeguard the lives of the people,” he said.

“The primary function of government is the protection of life and property, so our government needs to play their part in that.

“Faith plays an important part, if not for the faith that has sustained the IDPs so far we would witness large scale conversion to other religions. In the face of these challenges, the IDPs have remained strong.”

As aid organisations and local churches rally to provide support, Fr Andrew highlighted the logistical challenges they face.
“Imagine cooking for thousands of people per month,” he said.  

“We haven’t planned or stocked up for these emergencies, so we’re often caught unprepared.

“We often need to make appeals to organisations to help the diocese at the receiving end of these brutal attacks.

“It’s tough and challenging, so our response to these humanitarian emergencies has reinforced our faith in the Gospel. We see a church which is responsive, and which doesn’t forget their people or people of other faiths.”

Nigeria is number six on the Open Doors 2024 World Watch List, which ranks countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution.

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