Violence against Christians in Nigeria “can pave the way for genocide,” a group of U.K. parliamentarians warned this week in a new report analyzing the impact of violence carried out by Boko Haram extremists and Fulani militias throughout the West African country.
The U.K. All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, a bipartisan group of lawmakers from both houses of parliament, released its new report “Nigeria: Unfolding Genocide?” on Monday.
As Nigeria continues to struggle with the Boko Haram insurgency and the existence of its splinter group Islamic State West African Province, APPG members are concerned about reports of escalating violence characterized as a “farmer-herder conflict” even though there appear to be disproportionate killings carried out by militant Fulani herdsmen against predominantly Christian farming communities in the countries fertile Middle Belt region.
International rights advocates have contended that the standard for genocide has been reached in Nigeria as estimates have suggested that thousands of Christians have been killed in the Middle Belt as a traditional arbitration process between farmers and herders over damaged crops has broken down in recent years.
Violence in both Middle Belt and northeast Nigeria (where Boko Haram and ISWAP commit atrocities) has led to the mass displacement of millions as entire communities have at times been forced to flee in fear of their lives in the wake of massacres.
“Among all the injustices for the UK to help correct in the near future, the widespread and growing persecution of Christians should be top of the list,” Member of Parliament Jim Shannon said in a statement. “Thus, as the UK faces the challenge of lockdown and mass quarantine for the first time in living memory, I ask you to please spare a thought for those Christians who face not only a pandemic but also threats of violence and persecution that we can’t imagine.”
The report urges the Government of Nigeria and the international community to implement recommendations to help save the lives of Nigerian citizens, such as comprehensive investigations and prosecutions.
“As Nigerian Government Ministers have publicly and rightly admitted, Christians are being ruthlessly targeted, specifically because of their Faith,” the report states. “Undoubtedly though, peaceable Muslims, through collateral violence, can also become victims of this cruel Islamist religious ideology. It is a destructive and divisive ideology which readily mutates into crimes against humanity and can pave the way for genocide.”
“We must not hesitate in saying so,” the report adds. “Unfortunately, Boko Haram are not the only threat that Nigerian Christians face. Attacks by armed groups of Fulani herdsmen have resulted in the killing, maiming, dispossession and eviction of thousands of Christians. It is difficult for us in the West to sometimes even imagine this kind of suffering, so it is important that we recognise the stories of survivors.”