Christian leaders in Nigeria believe herdsmen attacks on Christian communities are inspired by their desire to forcefully take over Christians’ lands and impose Islam.
Two Christians were kidnapped on Friday (Aug. 25) in Kaduna state, Nigeria, two days after gunmen described as terrorists killed a Baptist pastor in another area of the state, sources said.
Terrorists on Friday night (Aug. 25) invaded the predominantly Christian community of Wusasa, Zaria, and kidnapped the two Christians, brothers Yusha’u Peter and Joshua Peter, staff members of St. Luke’s Anglican Hospital in Wusasa, a community leader in the area said.
Isiyaku Ibrahim said the brothers were abducted at about 9 p.m. by “terrorists.”
“This is coming not long after the father of the two victims was also kidnapped and taken into captivity by the terrorists,” Ibrahim told Morning Star News in a text message.
“The terrorists have so often made our area their target of attacks and abductions of our people. In fact, recently two Christians in our community were killed in similar attacks.”
The two brothers had fled to Zaria from Ikara in Kaduna state after their father was kidnapped there, according to local reports.
The abductions come after the Rev. Jeremiah Mayau, 61-year-old pastor of Tawaliu Baptist Church in Ungwan Mission, Kujama in Chikun County, was shot to death on Aug. 23.
“Rev. Jeremiah Mayau was attacked and shot to death by the terrorists while he was working on his farm,” area resident Matthew Audu told Morning Star News in a text message. “He was killed at about 2 p.m. and was shot on the head.”
The Rev. Joseph John Hayab, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Kaduna State Chapter, also described the killers as terrorists.
“Terrorists stormed a community in the Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna and shot dead one Rev. Jeremiah Mayau, a pastor of Tawaliu Baptist Church, Kujama,” while the pastor was working on his farm in Kujama, Hayab said in a press statement. “The incident occurred when the cleric was on his farm. It was barbaric.”
He called on security agencies to exercise greater vigilance to halt criminal activity in the state.
“It is very painful that gunmen move freely in broad daylight to execute their evil act and get away with it in a civilized society like ours, where we have constituted authority that is expected to checkmate these criminal elements in the society,” Hayab said.
“It is also painful that when you raise an eyebrow, you are seen as a deviant who is just looking for trouble while those in authority have otherwise refused to do the right thing to ensure harmonious coexistence among the citizens.”
Area resident Audo said that on Aug. 9, terrorists killed a Christian woman, Gloria Isa, as she slept at her home in the Ungwan Rana area of Kujama.
Nigeria led the world in Christians killed for their faith in 2022, with 5,014, according to Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List (WWL) report.
It also led the world in Christians abducted (4,726), sexually assaulted or harassed, forcibly married or physically or mentally abused, and it had the most homes and businesses attacked for faith-based reasons.
As in the previous year, Nigeria had the second most church attacks and internally displaced people.
In the 2023 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria jumped to sixth place, its highest ranking ever, from No. 7 the previous year.
“Militants from the Fulani, Boko Haram, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and others conduct raids on Christian communities, killing, maiming, raping and kidnapping for ransom or sexual slavery,” the WWL report noted.
“This year has also seen this violence spill over into the Christian-majority south of the nation… Nigeria’s government continues to deny this is religious persecution, so violations of Christians’ rights are carried out with impunity.”
Numbering in the millions across Nigeria and the Sahel, predominantly Muslim Fulani comprise hundreds of clans of many different lineages who do not hold extremist views, but some Fulani do adhere to radical Islamist ideology, the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom or Belief (APPG) noted in a 2020 report.
“They adopt a comparable strategy to Boko Haram and ISWAP and demonstrate a clear intent to target Christians and potent symbols of Christian identity,” the APPG report states.
Christian leaders in Nigeria have said they believe herdsmen attacks on Christian communities in Nigeria’s Middle Belt are inspired by their desire to forcefully take over Christians’ lands and impose Islam as desertification has made it difficult for them to sustain their herds.