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Nigeria: ‘It is tragic that many Christians who hoped for a peaceful Christmas were brutalised again’

In Plateau alone, where the latest massacre took place, at least 315 Christians have been killed and 80,000 displaced since April 2023. The Christian Association of Nigeria organised a demonstration.

FUENTES Protestante Digital AUTOR 5/Evangelical_Focus JOS 09 DE ENERO DE 2024 16:46 h
The roof of a facility collapsed after the Christmas attacks in Plateau. / Open Doors.

Media attention continues to focus on Plateau State in Nigeria, where between Friday 23 and Sunday 25 December, armed groups attacked up to 26 mainly Christian villages, killing between 140 and 200 people.

Christian organisatoin Open Doors reported that between the same dates and 28 December, another 21 people were killed in Taraba State. In total, the organisation estimates that around 200 Christians have lost their lives in Nigeria just this Christmas.

“It is tragic that many fellow Christians who were looking forward to a peaceful Christmas celebration with loved ones and their local congregations found themselves brutalised once again”, said Jo Newhouse, spokesperson for Open Doors operations in sub-Saharan Africa.

[photo_footer] In Bokkos, at least 211 houses have been burnt. / Open Doors. [/photo_footer] 


Deserted villages

Almost two weeks after the attacks, local communities such as Bokkos, Barkin Ladi and Mangu are still abandoned after people fled to save their lives, has reported the Nigerian news website Punch News.

It is estimated that over 10,000 people were displaced from those areas, while the attackers burnt homes, properties and facilities worth millions of naira.

According to activist and leader of the Bokkos Peace Foundation, Gideon ParaMallam, who travelled to the area in the aftermath, “the attacks in the villages of Bokkos have been devastating”.

“The loss of lives and the degradation of human dignity was very painful. Our foundation has come to appeal for peace to ask the people of Bokkos to be contained”, he added.

[photo_footer] Many towns remain deserted while over 10,000 displaced people wait to return home. / Open Doors. [/photo_footer] 

Jo Newhouse pointed out that “those who managed to escape the carnage with their lives are now uprooted, traumatised and in mourning. We need to pray fervently for our brethren to experience the Lord’s abundant grace in the midst of these circumstances”.


"Well-coordinated attacks”

The region where these communities are located is particularly vulnerable. It is known as the "middle belt" because it is where the Muslim-majority north and the predominantly Christian south meet.

Another key issue in this situation is the ownership and use of land. Semi-nomadic herder groups such as the Fulani (Muslims) are constantly on the move and put pressure on farming villages and their land.

[photo_footer] Plateau State is located in the so-called "middle belt". / Open Doors. [/photo_footer] 

That sometimes leads to armed clashes and killings. Since April 2023, according to Open Doors, at least 315 Christians have been killed in Plateau State alone, and around 80,000 people forcibly displaced.

For the acting president of the Bokkos local government, Monday Kassah, the "well-coordinated attacks in no less than twenty villages” show that they have a specific intentionality and organisation.


Arrests and protests

The local press has reported the first arrests of suspects, after the newly elected Nigerian President Bola Tinubu condemned what happened and ordered the arrest of the authors of the attack.

Civil society continues to call on the authorities to act. The Bishop of the Sokoto Diocese, Mathew Kukah, said Tinubu “has no excuse before God or the Nigerian people”, and insisted on the need to find “strategies to achieve reconciliation”.

[photo_footer] According to Open Doors, at least 315 Christians have been killed in Plateau alone since April 2023. / Open Doors. [/photo_footer] 

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has organised the first demonstration in response to what happened.

Under the name “Plateau peace marches”, the organisation brought together leaders of several Christian denominations and civil organisations on Monday 8 January in Jos, the capital of Plateau state, and went to the regional government headquarters where they were received by governor Muftwang and other high-ranking officials.

CAN reported that eight Christian church buildings were burned during the attacks.

Furthermore, the chairman of the Lagos branch of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Benjamin Olowojebutula, announced the shipment of humanitarian aid materials to Plateau, which included “essential materials and food items such as maize, beans, rice, yams, and hygiene products. They were handed over to officials at the IDP camp located at COCIN central, Bokkos”.


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