WHILE much of the world celebrates Christmas, it is of course a particularly special time for those who have a faith in Jesus Christ. This is no less true for believers in Plateau State, Nigeria, who a few weeks ago were greatly looking forward to commemorating the birth of their Lord and Saviour. Instead, a deja-vu season of mayhem, mass murder and deep mourning began to unfold.
And all the while the world remained virtually silent.
Beginning on the evening of December 23 and continuing till the morning of Christmas Day, Fulani Islamist militia groups systematically slaughtered scores of Christians in co-ordinated attacks in two districts of Plateau State, in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim Middle Belt. The dead were mostly women and children, and included a number of physically challenged individuals who were unable to run and who were therefore burnt alive.
Statistics gathered by Barnabas Fund have set the total death figure at nearly 300, the worst anti-Christian violence seen in Nigeria in years.
The carnage was unimaginable. Some 25 remote and widely scattered villages were targeted. In total more than 1,500 homes were burnt, eight churches destroyed, many hundreds of people injured and 30,000 displaced. This was one of the darkest days in recent Nigerian history.
Witnesses said that it took up to 12 hours after the attacks started for help to arrive. A former Nigerian chief of army staff said this was because government troops were working alongside the attackers. A number of others were killed in other northern Nigerian states during the same Christmas season.
Most of us did not hear about the more recent massacre until well after Christmas Day, and many of us not till after New Year’s Day, the main reason being that it received next to no coverage in the British mainstream media.
The Guardian was one of the few UK newspapers that reported on the mass killings. However, like almost all other secular news media that bothered to pick up on the story, it failed to note that the victims were mainly Christians.
The absence of television coverage has been more notable still. Major channels like ITV, Sky and Channel 4 failed to notify its viewers concerning the massacre. As did the BBC, who, while living up to its policy of almost never covering Islamic attacks against Nigerian Christians on its television news broadcasts, might at least have been expected to include a short report in its online news forum, if only for the purpose of counteracting anyone daring to raise a complaint for non-coverage.
The Guardian, like Reuters and the German newspaper Die Zeit, partially blamed climate change for the murders, stating that ‘Competition for natural resources between nomadic herders and farmers, intensified by rapid population growth and climate pressures, has exacerbated social tensions and sparked violence.’ But those with a deeper understanding of the Nigeria scenario insist the timing had clear religious undertones. Attacks against Christians during major celebrations such as Christmas and Easter are not uncommon in northern Nigeria. The chairman for the Plateau chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria said the assailants sent letters to the villages in advance, warning them they ‘will not celebrate Christmas, but run away with their rice’. He expressed surprise that security was not able to act on such prior warning.
The chairman of the Para-Mallam Peace Foundation also expressed exasperation with secular explanations. ‘A terrible genocide is taking place in Plateau State, but it is being window-dressed to look like a clash between farmers and herders,’ he said. ‘Sadly, false and misleading narratives are created while rivers of blood continue to flow.’
A Roman Catholic priest who heads a charity helping Christians start small businesses in areas where they have been heavily persecuted, mainly by Muslims, said that blaming the attacks on climate change ‘is the narrative of the post-Christian globalist West. How could they dare admit there is a genocide going on in Nigeria perpetrated by Muslims against Christians—it would demand action.’
The recent atrocities follow a number of other mass killings over the past two years in Nigeria. Across the Middle Belt, at least 2,600 people were killed in 2021 alone. It is estimated that in the last 14 years, more than 52,000 Christians have been murdered in Nigeria because of their faith.
In addition to murders, a recent report claims that as many as five million Christians in Nigeria have been displaced or moved to internal refugee camps within the country and at least 18,000 churches across the country have been set on fire, along with over 2,200 Christian schools.
If such widespread slaughter were being perpetuated against any other religious or ethnic minority in the world – especially a Muslim minority – one might expect widespread media alarm and news coverage. It is of course, a different story when Christians are the victims, and especially so when Muslims are the perpetrators. Then it becomes a politically incorrect incident the world conveniently prefers to ignore. A curious blend of media muteness, disinformation and communication censorship.
Update January 10, 2024
Tragically, the brutal massacre of Christians that started at Christmas has carried over into the new year. Over the past couple of weeks, the slaughter of Christians in Nigeria has been an almost daily occurrence. Yet still the world fails to acknowledge this heinous massacre.