Attacks on Christians and churches in Nigeria must stop.
That’s was the message Sunday from a national protest in Nigeria organized by the Christian Association of Nigeria.
It was repeated Monday by President Donald Trump when he met with Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari at the White House.
The pressure on Buhari has been building since last Tuesday’s attack that killed 19 people during a Catholic mass and destroyed dozens of homes. According to local sources, the worshippers were gathered in their St. Ignatius Church at about 5:30 a.m. for their morning Mass when the attack occurred.
The violence in Benue state continued last week with fatal late-night attacks on Christians’ homes and another church, where Christians were taking refuge. Hundreds have been killed so far this year. Two priests died in the attack.
Officials believe the Fulani, nomadic majority-Muslim herders, are responsible for the violence. They are the largest nomadic group in the world.
Christian leaders have accused Buhari—who is Muslim and whose family is Fulani—of failing to prevent or prosecute the ongoing attacks, which the Nigerian president recently called “vile, evil and satanic.” None of the suspected perpetrators have been punished.
“We are deeply concerned by religious violence in Nigeria including the burning of churches and the killing and persecution of Christians. It’s a horrible story,” Trump said in a joint press conference.
“We encourage Nigeria and the federal state and local leaders to do everything in their power to immediately secure the affected communities and to protect innocent civilians of all faiths including Muslims and including Christians.”
The President praised Buhari’s efforts to fight ISIS and Boko Haram in the West African nation, but Fulani herdsmen have recently outpaced both as the deadliest terror force in Nigeria.
“We’ve had very serious problems with Christians who have been murdered, killed in Nigeria,” said Trump. “We’re going to be working on that problem and working on that problem very, very hard because we can’t allow that to happen.”
David Curry, president of Open Doors USA, had called on Trump to use this week’s meeting with Buhari “to insist upon meaningful protection for Christians who continue to be violently attacked.”
In their plea to Trump, Curry pointed out that in the last year 50 Christian towns have been destroyed and thousands killed.
Nigeria’s Catholic bishops and leaders of the Methodist Church in Nigeria have been the most vocal in their criticism of Buhari. The bishops recently demanded Buhari resign due to ineffective leadership. “Whether this failure is due to inability to perform or lack of political will, it is time for him to choose the path of honor and consider stepping aside to save the nation from total collapse.”
Nigeria is a country divided by religion. The south is majority-Christian, while Muslims are dominant in the north. The Fulani are carrying out their murderous attacks through the middle of the African nation. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom designated Nigeria as 1 of 16 “countries of particular concern” in its 2018 report, released last week.