At least 68 Christians have been killed – with many more abducted or displaced – in the last two months in Benue State, central Nigeria.
Bishop Wilfred Chikpa Anagbe, of Makurdi diocese, Benue State, sent a report to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), highlighting the scale of the problem, and slamming government inaction in the face of attacks by Islamist Fulani herdsmen.
He said: “[T]he scale of killings, displacement and wanton destruction of property by these Fulani jihadist militia only buttresses the now revealed agenda to depopulate Christian communities in Nigeria and take over lands.
“Tellingly, the government in power in Nigeria at the moment continues to do nothing about these persistent attacks, save to give laughable reasons like ‘climate change’ or that some Muslims too are sometimes killed in attacks by so-called bandits.”
The bishop added: “Naturally, having to live with such a situation has been very terrible for me and my people, to say the least.”
According to the bishop, Fulani fighters disguise themselves as nomadic herdsmen and the regular raids in Benue State have caused “unbearable severe food shortages”.
He said: “Benue State is known to be the food basket of the nation but the terrorism has affected the food supply situation.”
The bishop added: “The situation of want has reduced many to a condition unworthy of human dignity, often relying on food rations contributed by others whose economic condition is not better off in any way.”
About 80 percent of displaced people from Benue are in the capital, Makurdi, and the Church is providing emergency and spiritual support.
Bishop Anagbe said: “[W]e have not forgotten the pastoral care that these persons deserve.
“There is a parish in some of the settlement areas that caters to the spiritual needs of the IDPs [Internally Displaced Persons].”
However, the region’s instability means the bishop himself has struggled to minister to some of the faithful.
He said: “For some years now I have not been able to carry out pastoral activities in parts of my diocese.”
Nigeria has long been a priority country for ACN, and in 2021 the charity financed 105 projects there, including emergency aid, trauma counselling, and a fence at a seminary where staff and students are at risk of abduction.
Bishop Angabe said: “[ACN is] a source of light in a valley of darkness.”