JEBBU MIANGO, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – A grandmother whose 35-year-old son, 21-year-old daughter-in-law and 5-year-old granddaughter were shot dead by Muslim Fulani herdsmen is now homeless after she and other relatives fled the attack in August.
“We were taken in by a family in Jebbu Miango village, but unfortunately the room we were given has been destroyed as a result of torrential rains,” Talatu Gado told Morning Star News as tears ran down her cheeks. “You can see that we now sleep in the open.”
Members of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in Zanwra village, in Bassa county of Plateau state, Gado and her relatives were at their home in Angwan Kauna village when the herdsmen attacked on Aug. 3. Slain were her son, Emmanuel Gado, his sister-in-law Ladi Monday and the latter’s daughter, Mary Monday. A fourth relative, 7-year-old Gado Monday, was wounded by gunshot.
“Prior to the herdsmen attack on us, they had while grazing their cattle around homes and farms threatened us severally,” Talatu Gado told Morning Star News. “One of them once told me that a day would come that I will weep, that is if I’m still alive to cry. I never knew they’ll carry out their threat. Now my heart bleeds.”
The matriarch and her relatives have not been able to return to their village due to the threat of further attacks, she said.
On the day of the attack at about 6:30 p.m., her daughter-in-law and other women were cooking the evening meal when the herdsmen attacked their village, she said. Her granddaughter was taking a bath. She and her husband, Gado Andra, were seated as they waited for dinner. Suddenly they heard her son, 25-year-old Friday Gado, shouting outside the house that Fulani herdsmen were attacking the village from all sides.
“We all scattered in different directions, rushing out of the house through available exit points,” Talatu Gado said. “Other family members who were too scared to run out rushed into bedrooms to hide.”
The four family members who remained inside were shot, with the three dying and Gado Monday wounded.
“Those of us who were able to escape from the house survived the shooting, but we were displaced as we have been forced to flee the village,” she said. “Many in the community who also survived have fled to other areas. Some are living with relations in Miango town, while others are living in Internally Displaced People’s camps in the city of Jos.”
Sunday Birih, the pastor in charge of the ECWA congregation in Zanwra, told Morning Star News that Emmanuel Gado tried to rescue Mary, his niece, during the attack.
Emmanuel Lado was brother-in-law to Ladi Monday. Pastor Birih said she served as choir mistress and was a one-time leader of the Women’s Fellowship Group at Angwan Kauna.
Their story is repeated in the hundreds of thousands throughout Nigeria. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates violence in the country is responsible for more than 1.9 million people still internally displaced.
Pastor Birih said the herdsmen had first attacked Zanwra and Angwan Kauna in late January. Killed were church members James Ninweh, 60, Monday Njweh, 49, and 50-year-old Saku Jerih, he said.
“It was during this first attack that my house was burnt down,” Pastor Birih said. “The herdsmen after this attack thought they had killed me and my family as they went round and proudly spread the news that the pastor and his family were burnt alive. But unknown to them, me and my family escaped during the attack before the house was burnt down.”
He credited Morning Star News’s coverage for the outpouring of support he received to rebuild his house after the attack. But the assaults displaced about half of the church’s former membership of about 400 worshippers, he said.
“When we returned after the attack in August, we set aside three days for fasting and prayers, and this has helped to ignite the revival fires in our hearts,” Pastor Birih said. “Other members are scattered in the town of Miango and in the city of Jos. Unfortunately, most houses of my members who survived these two attacks have been destroyed by rains because their owners have been displaced. Truly, my surviving members urgently need help to get back on their feet.”
Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.
Nigeria ranked 14th on Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.