In the first three months of 2022, almost 900 Nigerian civilians were killed in violent attacks – including hundreds of Christians who were murdered because of their faith.
It’s difficult to get your head around how many Nigerians have been killed already in 2022. You might hear about individual events – like a bomb and gun attack on a train in north west Nigeria – but it’s hard to get a sense of the scale. In the first three months of 2022, 896 Nigerian civilians were killed in attacks by extremist Islamic militants. Not all were motivated by religious persecution, but a significant number of those men, women and children were murdered because they follow Jesus.
The report revealing these figures has been put together by SBM Intelligence, a Nigeria-based research firm. These 896 people were killed in attacks by Islamist groups such as Boko Haram and Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), militant Fulani herdsmen, bandits and violent gangs – and this total is only civilians; it doesn’t include members of those extremist groups or people killed because of their job (such as soldiers and police officers). The highest number of fatalities was in the north west of Nigeria, with high numbers elsewhere in the north and in the Middle Belt.
"Nigeria is currently one of the scariest places to be a Christian" Illia Djadi, Open Doors
While the violence affects everyone, Christians are often particular targets because of their faith. Nigeria is number seven on the Open Doors World Watch List, and more Christians are killed for their faith in Nigeria than the rest of the world combined. As one example, at least 20 people were killed or injured in an attack by ISWAP in mid-April. They targeted a market in Iware, Taraba State, because it was ‘a gathering of infidel Christians’. A week earlier, Fulani militants attacked 10 communities in Plateau State, killing more than 150 people.
“Nigeria is currently one of the scariest places to be a Christian,” says Illia Djadi, an Open Doors analyst for sub-Saharan Africa. “The country has witnessed an explosion of violence in recent months. Attacks are happening almost on a daily basis. And what is happening in Nigeria is a sad illustration of what is happening across West Africa – the agenda, and the process and model of persecution, are being implemented elsewhere with impunity.”
There are also increasing signs that Islamic extremist groups have begun working together and widening the impact of their violence. David Landrum, Open Doors Director of Advocacy, says: “It would seem that the country is now having to face up to a powerful triumvirate — some would say, a three-headed monster — as Boko Haram, ISWAP, Fulani militants and so-called bandits are evidently acting in cooperation with one another.”
This appears to be acknowledged by the government as well. Following the mass killings in Plateau State, Nigeria’s Information Minister Lai Mohammed told reporters the attacks were a result of ‘a kind of unholy handshake between bandits and Boko Haram insurgents’.
Meanwhile, the increase in violence has caused millions to flee their homes. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has reported that more than 8.4 million Nigerians in the north eastern region alone are in need of humanitarian assistance, with half of them facing a food crisis.
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