KARSHIN DAJI, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Following attacks on three towns in Nigeria’s Kaduna state last week that killed 46 Christians, church leaders said the Muslim Fulani assailants seem driven to rid the area of Christianity and use the land to graze their cattle.
Two pastors were among 31 Christians killed just after midnight on Sept. 17 in Karshin Daji, where 15 others were injured and 15 houses burned down, Christian leaders said. Pastor Ezra Ibrahim of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) was killed, and the Julius Jako of the ECWA was slain alongside his wife and daughter, said 60-year-old Danjuma Awe, an elder of the ECWA congregation in Karshin Daji.
Jako, his wife Rhoda and their 12-year-old daughter Husseina were in their home on their church premises in Karshin Daji when Awe heard about an attack going on at Fadan Karshi, just five kilometers (three miles) away, he said. His family told Jako’s son to warn his father, and he left.
“Suddenly we heard sounds of gunshots around our village,” Awe said. “The pastor was still in the pastorate when the Muslim Fulani gunmen forced their way onto the church premises. They cut him, his wife, and a daughter with a machete, and then tied the hands and feet of the three of them before setting the house on fire. The three of them were burned to ashes in the living room of the pastorate. We only found the charred remains of the three of them the following morning.”
In three hours of bloodshed without any effort to intervene by security agencies, the Fulani Muslims killed 31 Christians in Karshin Daji, he said. The 15 wounded received hospital treatment. The village has two churches, the ECWA Church and an Evangelical Reformed Church of Christ (ERCC).
Four slain families in the village left no surviving members, Awe said – the Maisamari, Maichibi, Danjuma and Peter families.
Jako had pastored the ECWA church of 150 members for three years. He was 55.
In Angwan Ganye, the assailants also burned houses and killed two Christians, according to a member of the ECWA church in Fadan Karshi.
“One of our pastors whom we sent there as a missionary was killed alongside a female member of his church,” said the church member, whose name is withheld for security reasons. “The pastor was a young man who had just graduated from the Bible College.”
In Fadan Karshi, the Rev. Kefas Sai Wujun, archdean of the Gimi Conference of the ERCC, told Morning Star News that his neighbor, the wife of a retired pastor, was among 13 Christians killed in the Sept. 17 attack on that town – the third armed assault on Fadan Karshi since May.
“To be sincere and candid, I find no justifiable reason for the Fulanis to keep attacking this town,” he said. “We’ve heard that the Fulanis have vowed to destroy this town completely. They vowed that they will continue to attack the town until it is deserted and become a grazing land for them. I don’t know how they intend to achieve this, but the frequent attacks are pointers to the desire to achieve this aim.”
All members of his once 500-member church have since fled the town, he said. Scores of armed Muslim Fulanis attacked after midnight on the night of Sept. 16, shooting as they stormed into the ERCC church compound and into homes in spite of soldiers stationed nearby, Wujun told Morning Star News.
“At exactly 1 a.m., the gunmen stormed into the church compound here and began to shoot,” Wujun said. “They killed my neighbor’s wife, Mrs. Tina Aku, 55, and then burned her corpse in the house and the entire house itself.”
Aku’s husband had left the town after the first attack in May and has been living with his brother in an undisclosed city, Wujun said. Her five children managed to run out of the house and escape with their lives.
“The gunmen then came onto the church premises and began shooting,” Wujun said. “I heard them shouting at the top of their voices, saying they must obliterate any trace of Christianity in the town.”
Wujun and his family were inside his bedroom at their home in the church compound. He watched through a window as about 20 assailants searched cars and set them on fire, then came to his front door and tried unsuccessfully to force it open.
“They went to the back of the house and forced their way in,” he said. “They came into the house while, I, my wife, and the kids where in another room. They could not see us as they searched a few rooms and then went out. This is a miracle that they were made blind, as God hid us from them. I heard them talking to themselves saying there was no one in the rooms so they should leave.”
The gunmen lit something on fire and threw it through one of the windows into the children’s room, Wujun said. The house caught fire.
“They left as the house was burning,” he said. “About 15 minutes after their departure, I decided that I have to brave it to come out of the room where we were hidden, or else we will all die in the burning house. I came out of the room and found they had gone, so I fetched water and put out the fire that had engulfed part of the house.”
He returned to the room, where the family remained until morning, he said.
“It was only in the morning, when the gunmen had left, that we discovered the destruction that was done by them,” he said. “The administration secretary of the church, the Rev. Jacob Anthony, who was also living on the church premises, was able to escape with his family into the bush when the gunmen came.”
Among the 13 members of his church killed, besides Aku, was Kulu Danjuma, 77; Mercy Silas, secretary of the ERCC Graceland congregation in Fadan Karshi; and a 37-year-old man identified only as Dr. Danjuma, Wujun said.
One church member identified only as Silas had his house burned down, while his mother, wife, and daughter were killed, he said.
“Silas is a graduate of Ayu Theological Seminary and a member of our church,” he said. “He escaped when the attackers stormed his house. The three family members of Silas had their corpses burned and their house was also burned down. Silas has had to flee.”
Because of the three attacks since May, Christians are suffering deeply as they can no longer go to their farms, he said.
“Five of the members of my church were killed while they were on their farms,” Wujun said. “The situation is so bad that people no longer go to their farms because of fear of the unknown, and also children no longer go to school. Surviving parents have transferred their children who are pupils out to other towns they think are safer.”
Church pastors, in particular, have become targets for the Fulani Muslims, he said.
“Our pastor at the ERCC church in Angwan Mada was on two occasions targeted in attacks, but he escaped,” Wujun said. “And because his life was in danger, we had to ask him to leave the church for now.”
Wujun said the town residents have no weapons to protect themselves, and that they have only the government soldiers for any hope of security from Fulani attacks.
“There are soldiers that have been brought and camped here at the premises of the Government Secondary School-Fadan Karshi, but to our greatest surprise, while the town was being attacked, the soldiers could not come to repel the attackers and assist Christians being attacked,” he said. “After the attack, we were told that even soldiers who made efforts to come to our rescue were ambushed and attacked also by the Fulanis.”
Church leaders on several occasions have spoken with government officials about the attacks, and each time officials have told them they’re trying put a stop to them.
“We know that the way to peace is not through weapons, but the soldiers’ presence here no doubt is supposed to check those with evil intentions to think before carrying out evil acts,” Wujun said. “Reconciliation through dialogue is the only available option towards curtailing these attacks by the Fulani. It is only through this way that we can know precisely what the problem is. But the Fulanis are not prepared for reconciliation. They attack and then leave and return to attack again.”
The government should take the lead in initiating a process of reconciliation, he said.
Fulani herdsmen have long attacked settled Christian farmers in Plateau, Bauchi, Kaduna, Taraba and Adamawa states, but in the past year analysts have begun to see some ties between the assailants and Islamic extremist groups keen to exploit longstanding ethnic, property and religious conflicts.
While Muslim Fulani have historically had property disputes with Christian farmers, Christian leaders say attacks on Christian communities by the herdsmen constitute a war “by Islam to eliminate Christianity” in Nigeria.
Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population of 158.2 million, while Muslims account for 45 percent. Those practicing indigenous religions may be as high as 10 percent of the total population, according to Operation World, so the percentages of Christians and Muslims may be less.
The first attack this year on Fadan Karshi occurred on May 6, killing six people – three from Wujun’s church, a Catholic, and two policemen, he said. The second attack came on June 23.
“In the second attack, which occurred at Kabamu and Angwan Mada, just on the outskirts of Fadan Karshi, two of our church members were killed at Angwan Mada, and 16 were killed at Kabamu,” he said. “Out of the 16, 12 were members of ERCC church. The other four were from other churches.”
All surviving members of Wujun’s church have fled town, he said.
“This is a church that used to have an average of about 500 members worshipping in the church every Sunday, but after the first two attacks, the membership of the church was reduced to half, as then we had only 200 who come for Sunday worship services,” he said. “And with this last attack, the remnant church has completely been displaced, as all surviving members have fled from the town.”
ERCC Gimi Conference has 42 congregations, and Muslim Fulani attacks have also depleted those in Dogon Daji, Gimi Dogara, Angwan Ganye, Angwan Pah, Karshin Daji, Angwan Ibrahim, Angwan Nungu and Graceland, besides disrupting the conference headquarters in Fadan Karshi, he said.
Other churches in Fadan Karshi affected by the attacks include ECWA, Assemblies of God, Living Faith, Church of Christ in Nations, Glorious Church and Chosen Church of God, he said.
The attacks have also depleted churches in the Karshin Daji area, an area Christian said, as members have fled the village.
“Church attendance in the past three months has dropped drastically,” he said. “Before the attacks, we had about 400 worshipers every Sunday, but after the two attacks before this week’s, attendance dropped as we now have less than 100 worshipers.”
Verification and Memorial
Awe, the ECWA church elder, identified the 31 Christians killed in Karshin Daji as Agiya Maisamari, 60; Talatu Agiya, 26; Rhoda Agiya, 35; Awolu Minday, 3; Danbaba Agbun, 75; Tasala Danbaba, 45; Pheobe Danjuma, 22; Maryamu Danjuma, 19; Clement Danjuma, 16; a girl identified only as Hannatu; Alheri Danbala, 28; Lahleh Philip, 20; Peace Philip, 3; Tina Audi, 40; Larai Monday, 30; Yanga Monday, 35; Kulu Monday, 18; Amina Sambo, 45; Dan Peter, 7; Ruth Peter, 5; Hassana Peter, 3; Zabi Felix, 15; Amande Musa, 80; Stephen Maichibi, 55, Sarah Stephen, 40; Paul Stephen, 8; Japheth Ayuba, 2, Rita Danjuma, 3; Jako, his wife Rhoda Jako, 45, and daughter Husseina Jako, 12.
Among those treated in various hospitals in Kafanchan and Jos for bullets wounds and machete cuts, he said, are Bege Danjuma, 4; Hauwa Danjuma, 7, Tasala Ishaya, 70; Margaret Philip, 4; Yamboi Sambo, 15; Husseina Peter, 3; Jethro Audi, 8; Baba Audi, 5; Baby Agiya, 6; Lilian Monday, 22; and Hassana Jako, 12, the twin sister of Husseina.