Persecution or even murders of Christians in different parts of the world do not make headlines. Is it because these atrocities happened far away? Or maybe because there are so many victims that we feel we can no longer pay attention?
According to the Genocide Watch, Nigeria is currently experiencing a genocide emergency, with actual extermination taking place. The fact that the Nigerian constitution includes the protection of religious beliefs and prohibition of religious discrimination does not seem to help the Christians, as in 12 Muslim-majority northern Nigerian states Islamic Shari’ah law provisions are adopted into the criminal codes. Christians face persecution, or even physical extermination, mainly at the hands of Boko Haram members and the Fulani tribe.
The attacks of Fulani group have been a growing concern. Although, the tribal antagonism between predominately Muslim herdsmen and Christian farmers must not be overlooked, religious factor seems to play an important role in this conflict. Due to a lack of effective protection for Christians, there are even accusations of “Fulanisation” of the country. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo expressed this view, saying that: “It is no longer an issue of lack of education and lack of employment for our youths in Nigeria which it began as. It is now West African Fulanisation, African Islamisation and global organized crimes of human trafficking, money laundering, drug trafficking, gun trafficking, illegal mining and regime change”.
Sadly, there are many reported examples in which Christians have been killed for simply being Christians. For instance, after the dedication of a baby, Fulani herdsmen killed 17 Christians, including the mother of the child; an attack during morning Mass in a Catholic church left two priests and 17 parishioners dead; in Karamar village militants set fire to houses and a church, and at least 28 people trying to escape the blaze were murdered. Perpetrators are reported to shout ‘Allahu Akbar, and ‘Destroy the infidels’, during the attacks.
Christian churches and sacred objects are being destroyed. Deliberate humiliation, torture, causing grievous bodily harm, spreading terror, euphoria at having total control over another human being – they are all present in the testimonies of the survivors – and, according to the Office of the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, they are factors relevant to the recognition of genocide intent.
Since there is clearly a religious motive, to focus only on economic factors would be a dangerous oversimplification. Moreover, in the light of the information about the use of AK47s and even the sighting of helicopters preceding attacks by Fulani militants – often against unarmed Christian farmers – questions about the source of weapons and finance must inevitably be asked.
The Global Terrorism Index named Fulani militants as the fourth deadliest terrorist group in the world, and the Nigerian House of Representatives has declared killings in Plateau State to be genocide. In practice, it is very rare to reach consensus among different groups on whether concrete massacres constitute genocide, but “at least” it must be noted that, according to the Statute of the International Criminal Court, persecution is a form of crimes against humanity which belongs to the category of international crimes. This classification still should have the power to move public opinion and to initiate action, making people take seriously the “responsibility to protect” in humanitarian law.
Living in relatively safe and comfortable conditions, we can get used to many things. I believe that the awareness of atrocities happening somewhere in the world is not one of them.