Nigeria (MNN) – Recently, two hundred Christians were killed in Nigeria by Fulani herdsmen, the largest Muslim nomadic people group in the world.
Tensions between the groups have lasted for generations, seeding deep hurt for present and future generations. Quarrels have resulted in damages of property, injuries, and killings.
A History between Christians and the Fulani
World Mission’s Greg Kelley shares that tensions have often risen because the Fulani move from country to country and bring their cows onto other people’s farmland, creating hostility, “because there’s not a lot of respect given as they’re grazing their cattle, kind of indiscriminately from one farmers’ land to the next and that creates a lot of tension.”
As a result, Christians have attacked the Fulani herdsmen and vice versa.
Kelley says Christians who have retaliated are “moderate” Christians, who are believers only in name.
Yet retaliations from them and the Fulani have continued throughout the Middle East and into Africa and continues spreading deeper into the nation of Nigeria, hurting others, including true believers.
“This most recent issue, the reason is so concerning because it’s the areas that it took place in. It’s more of the middle areas of Nigeria, close to the town of Jos, which is a Christian ministry sort of batched in stronghold,” Kelley says.
Nigeria is split into two. Christians mainly live in the southern part of the nation, while Muslims live in the north.
With attacks that are going further into the south, there is fear that this persecution will become widespread. Kelley says it’s difficult for Christians to survive in northern Nigeria because of the persecution and hate that takes place. These attacks could threaten their safety in the south too.
“The Fulani have just consistently persecuted Christians,” Kelley says.
“We know of people who have been killed by the Fulani. We know of people who have been kidnapped. We know when people convert from the Fulani to Christianity, their wives are taken from them and then given to Muslim men. Their property is taken from them. Their children are killed. It’s the worst form of persecution that you could imagine.”
Fulani and Boko Haram
Interestingly, the Fulani were the original Muslim missionaries to Africa.
“They are the ones who brought Islam to Africa. They came through the Middle East and so, their nomadic patterns would take them from country to country to country, and unfortunately, their form of growth was through jihad and through an aggression of forced conversion into Islam.”
Their forced conversion and violence is related to that of Boko Harams.
There are clear differences, however. For instance, Boko Haram is very against western education. In the Hausa language, ‘Boko Haram’ means ‘western education is evil.’
The Muslim militant group stands against anything that is advocating for western education and has slaughtered and kidnapped many people who were for it, many of who have been believers.
Both the groups share a commonality in their persecution and hate towards believers.
“The thing they share in common is they both would have an adaption of radical Islam. They both are targeting Christians, but they work almost in tandem with one another,” Kelley says.
The well-known terrorist group, Boko Haram, often stands alone, however, and the Fulani’s violence could be seen as a rival of Boko Haram.
“There may be a case where they are competing for territory, but both of them, at the end of the day, want a Muslim-majority area, and that’s where the Christians, which are very much a minority in these areas, are incredibly vulnerable.”
Many are criticizing the government and President Muhammadu Buhari, who is Fulani, for not taking action against the recent attacks as reports say few arrests have been made.
President Buhari has said it is unjust to blame him for the attacks of the herdsmen because he “looks like one of them.”
He has also said that his administration is making efforts to make the area safer.
But, Christians are still skeptical of the government and its bias.
“If you were to talk to the Christian community in Nigeria, they would essentially say the government is overseeing a genocide of its own people and there’s a deliberate Islamic agenda that’s being pushed forward,” Kelley says.
“I think there’s some truth into that, but the government, when the President, himself, is a Fulani man, it puts him in a very difficult position because the Fulani largely are the ones who would’ve elected him and put him into power and so, he’s going to sympathize with them.”
Kelley says the prejudice towards Christians is apparent even in refugee camps where believers are often passed over for receiving humanitarian aid and resources.
Forgiving for Future’s Sake
Kelley says the only way to stop these retaliations and violence between the Christians and Fulani herdsmen is to forgive and share the Truth of Jesus.
“It has to start there because otherwise these retaliations will just continue to take place and so, it’s going to start with a Christian community being able to forgive,” Kelley shares.
“It’s going to start with beginning to have compassion for people like the Fulani, like the Hausa, and like the Kanuri, which are the three major Muslim people groups in the northern part of Nigeria. And, it’s going to start with a strategy within the Body of Christ to have a burden to mobilize, to send missionaries into these areas.”
World Mission is coming alongside a Nigerian national network to help align themselves with 160 national missionaries who are sharing the Gospel across the nation even in dangerous areas.
Though these Gospel workers face danger, they know that God can transform the hearts of these people.
World Mission is helping to soften hearts to the Truth by meeting physical needs. They’re starting water projects, providing aid, and medical care.
Further, they’re distributing their solar-powered audio Bible, the Treasure, to share the Word of God with Muslims and believers.
“We need help from people to help us send more Treasures into northern Nigeria,” Kelley says.
“The most strategic thing the Body of Christ can do in the west is to send the Gospel into northern Nigeria. That’s the only thing that’s going to cause transformation there. No negotiation, no amounts of aid in the absence of the Gospel being shared are going to transform that area. It’s only through the power of the Gospel.”
Help transform hearts in Nigeria by sharing the Gospel and praying for the Lord’s peace.