At least 170 Christian farmers and Muslim Fulani herdsmen have died this year in Nigeria’s Middle Belt in a centuries-old feud driven by Muslims seeking to graze their cattle on farmland, Christian advocacy groups have reported.
Advocacy group Amnesty International (AI) counted 170 killings through Jan. 30 in Adamawa, Benue, Taraba, Ondo and Kaduna states. Many killed were Christian farmers attacked by herdsmen seeking grazing land for their cattle, but others died in retaliatory clashes.
Thousands of residents have been displaced, homes and churches have been destroyed and Sunday worship numbers have declined, according to reports from AI, Morning Star News and International Christian Concern (ICC).
Nigeria’s military has announced a six-week offensive set to launch Feb. 15 to combat the violence that has increased in conjunction with several new local anti-grazing laws meant to protect the farmers.
In Benue state, where ICC said more than 80 Christians were killed in January, the ramped up violence has been traced to the enactment of a law two months earlier against open cattle grazing there. The new laws must be revised in order for the violence to simmer, a national leader of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association told Nigeria’s Punch newspaper.
“We don’t wish for the crisis to continue, but let us give it [the law] another look,” Punch quoted association secretary-general Usman Ngelzerma Jan. 9. “Give the farmers their rights, but consider the pastoralists too.”
Boko Haram terrorists aided herdsmen in attacks that killed eight Christians in four ambushes spanning several days in late January in Zanwra, a village in a northernmost area of the Middle Belt in Plateau state, a pastor told Morning Star News.
“A critical look at these attacks has revealed that it is not the herdsmen who are attacking Christian communities, as there are terrorists collaborating with them to carry out these attacks,” said Gado Biri, pastor of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in Zanwra. “It is unfortunate that the soldiers brought here are not taking decisive actions against the herdsmen.”
The attacks have displaced church members and cut Sunday church attendance in half, from 400 to about 200, Biri told Morning Star News.
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Source: Baptist Press