Christians share their stories and march for peace following the Christmas Eve attacks on several Christian-majority villages in Plateau State, Nigeria.
Following the devastating Christmas Eve attacks in Plateau State, Nigeria, Christians have led a peace march in protest at the killings. At least 160 believers were murdered in the attacks by Fulani militants and many more were injured or lost their homes. It’s also estimated that eight churches were burned down and as many as 15,000 people are now internally displaced. In response, on 8 January 2024, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and other prominent Christian leaders led the march to Rayfield Government House in Jos, the administrative capital of Plateau State. Their aim was to express their grievance and call for an end to killings of Christian brothers and sisters at the hands of Fulani militants in Mangu, Barkinladi, Riyom and, recently, Bokkos Local Government Area.
As they marched, these believers held up posters that bemoaned the insecurity that Christians face in Nigeria, and especially in Plateau State. Among the slogans on the posters were: “Come to our rescue” and “We cannot even mourn in peace”. Many people also carried branches, as a way of symbolising their pain and distress.
These courageous men and women are staying firm in their faith. As they marched, they sang: “Where is the power of the devil where Jesus is ruling? Where is the power of the devil; there is no power at all.”
Local Open Doors partners have visited some of those affected by the attacks. As well as mourning their loved ones, many of the Christians from these communities have lost everything they own, including their homes. In this video, they share their stories. Open Doors local partners are coordinating a relief response.
Please pray that the protest letter will bring further attention to the atrocities, and lead to action that helps vulnerable Christians. According to Punch Media, Reverend Stephen Baba Panya handed over a protest letter to the governor for delivery to President Bola Tinubu, saying that Christians and people of Plateau State were condemning the continued attacks and killings in the state.
“The entire Christian community in Plateau State once again condemns in the strongest terms the unprovoked, wicked […] killings of innocent and harmless Christians on Christmas Eve in over 20 communities in Bokkos, Barkin Ladi Local Government Areas of Plateau State,” said Reverend Panya. “The timing of these killings on Christmas Eve and during Christmas celebrations has shown that the attackers had clear intentions and objectives, which were to target Christian communities, take them unawares and inflict maximum casualty on them."
As well as asking the authorities to take action, Nigeria’s Christians are calling for their brothers and sisters around the world to join them in prayer. Rev. Pam Bot Elias, a local church leader, asks: “Pray for the church in Plateau to remain strong and for the government to live up to its expectations of defending innocent citizens.”
2 January 2024
More than 300 people were injured in the attacks, and others displaced. Please pray that God will strengthen His church in Nigeria
The run-up to Christmas is a special time – Christingle and carol services, preparations for Christmas dinners and gathering family together. No one in the UK and Ireland expects to be attacked while celebrating the birth of Jesus.
But in the run-up to Christmas 2023 in Nigeria, attacks began in Christian-majority villages across Plateau State which killed at least 160 people. The attacks began shortly before Christmas and continued into the early hours of Christmas Day.
Monday Kassah, head of the local government in Bokkos, Plateau State, stated that more than 300 people were injured in the attacks that targeted at least 20 communities across the region. The video below shows the aftermath of the attacks – people queuing for food, burned-out homes and people in vans fleeing the region.
Magdalene* is one of the Christians who was attacked - and who somehow survived the appalling experience. She was at home when the Fulani militants first arrived. "They came in while I was lying down on my sleeping mat," she says. "They suddenly removed my blanket." When they learned her husband wasn't at home, they left, telling Magdalene her to stay where she was. Instead, she courageously ran to warn her neighbours - then fled the village.
"I ran to our farm fields to join others who were hiding there," she says. "I hid beside a boy. I later heard a sound of people moving close to us and altered the boy. He said it might be the Fulani [militants]. But we were not sure. So the boy shouted, 'Who are you?' But there was no reply."
If it had been someone from their community, Magdalene knew they'd have called back. They were in grave danger, and had to keep moving.
"I ran away," remembers Magdalene. "The boy ran after me - but they shot him and he died. They shot at me too. I fell down but the torch I had in my hand showed light. Then they hit my leg. The torch fell so they thought that I was dead. Then they passed on."
Magdalene crawled into a hideout, hoping she wouldn't be seen. From her hiding place, she saw the militants move on to attack another nearby community. Eventually, a soldier found her and arranged for her to be taken to hospital. In total, 16 people from Magdalene's village alone were killed by the militants.
These are all Christian-majority villages, explained Jo Newhouse, spokesperson for Open Doors operations in sub-Saharan Africa, further stating, “Confirmation on the identities and motive of the attackers will be slow to come in. We can only go on what we know has been happening in this region over an extended period of time. We know that mostly Christian farming communities have been suffering attacks by Fulani militants over many years now. While the blame for the attacks usually falls on issues like climate change, ethnicity, socio-economy or politics, the religious element to these attacks should not go unrecognised. Over and over, we have seen defenceless Christians attacked without any provocation whatsoever.
“It’s tragic that many fellow Christians who were looking forward to a peaceful Christmas celebration with loved ones and their local congregations found themselves brutalised once again,” she continued. “Those who managed to escape the carnage with their lives are now uprooted, traumatised and in mourning. We need to pray fervently for our brethren to experience the Lord’s abundant grace in the midst of these circumstances.”
Nigeria is currently number six on the Open Doors World Watch List. More Christians are killed in Nigeria for their faith than all the other countries of the world combined – and the violence from Islamic extremist groups is increasing. While in the past the violence has largely been prevalent in the north of the country, it’s starting to spread south. Please join with Jo and the church in Nigeria as we pray for the peace, presence and healing of Jesus to comfort all those impacted by these attacks.
Attacks like these are why it’s so vital that the UK Government hears the voices of our persecuted church family – including a speaker from the region – at the World Watch List 2024 launch on 17 January. You can invite your MP to the launch – or, if you’ve already done so, please pray that attending MPs will be impacted and take action. Thank you!
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