Read More Atheist Republic On September 17, a pastor and dozens from his congregation were kidnapped from a Christian church in northwest Nigeria. Less than a week before, fifty-seven Christians were kidnapped at another church in a north-central state. In fact, the last few years have shown a marked increase in attacks and abductions in the country of both Christian church members and their clergy.
FACT: An average of 10 Christians are killed PER DAY in Nigeria, according to evidence from @OpenDoors #WWL21. They said, “violence in Nigeria against Christians has reached the level of genocide”. Cc: @WhiteHouse @SecBlinken @StateIRF https://t.co/CrPXmTe3MV
— Mazi Nnamdi Kanu (@MaziNnamdiKanu) February 10, 2021
According to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), forty-five attacks were carried out in the first six months of 2022. Olajumoke Ayandele, former ACLED researcher and current research fellow at New York University’s The Center for the Study of Africa and the African Diaspora, said, “A lot of what filters into the media are high profile cases. I think the numbers are way higher.”
One such high-profile case was the Ondo church massacre, in which at least fifty died when assailants opened fire and detonated explosives last June.
Gunmen disguise as worshippers, massacre over 35 in Ondo church https://t.co/vVSxiOhkVy
— Punch Newspapers (@MobilePunch) June 6, 2022
A month before that, Debrah Samuel made international headlines when she was beaten, stoned, and set on fire by Muslim classmates over a “blasphemous” text message.
“Deborah Samuel was dragged out, flogged and stoned. The last word in her mouth was ‘what do you hope to achieve with this?, She pleaded for mercy and called out for help but it was far from her. What a cruel way to die,” https://t.co/jMFY55TFgR
— Vanguard Newspapers (@vanguardngrnews) May 14, 2022
Attacks and abductions of clergy have risen sharply. According to ACLED’s database, from January 2020 to July 2022, there were ninety-nine separate incidents in which priests were kidnapped or murdered. The data shows thirty-four attacks on clergy in 2020, thirty-six in 2021, and twenty-nine within just the first seven months of 2022.
In one incident in July, Reverend Fathers Donatus Cleophas and Mark Cheitnam were kidnapped from their rectory in southern Kaduna by five armed assailants. Two had AK-47 rifles, one had a machete, and the other two carried sticks. According to Cleophus, the men took their phones and marched them to a nearby farm, where they shot and killed Cheitnam. Father Cleophus said, “We did not have any scuffle, nothing. All I can think of is because maybe Father Mark was wearing canvas shoes, and he could not keep up with the pace at which we were moving.” Cleophus managed to escape when his guards fell asleep while the other men were out collecting the ransom of the priest they had just murdered.
BREAKING! Two Catholic Priests Kidnapped In Kaduna https://t.co/AFBHDQhMhj
— Simon Ekpa (@simon_ekpa) July 16, 2022
According to reports, several groups are targeting Christians and priests. Malik Samuel, a researcher at the Institute of Security Studies, explains, “When you kidnap or kill a Christian priest, you get local and as well international attention, and that brings legitimacy to your ransom demand.”
Militant Islamic groups, vigilante mobs, and local bandits are responsible for some of the attacks, as well as Fulani herdsmen, who are not only majority Muslim but have land disputes with Christian communities.
According to the Christian NGO Open Doors, 4,650 Christians were killed in Nigeria in 2021. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) spokesman, Adebayo Oladeji, said, “It is becoming a hopeless situation.”