NIGERIA: Easter massacre – Extremists kill 10, including pregnant woman and unborn baby

Attacks in Bokkos, Plateau State, over Christmas 2023.
Attacks in Bokkos, Plateau State, over Christmas 2023.

Suspected Fulani militants in Nigeria’s Middle Belt struck on Easter Monday (1st April), massacring 10 Christians including a pregnant woman and her unborn baby.  

The attack took place across three communities in St Thomas the Apostle Parish in Bokkos, Plateau State.

In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the Catholic charity for persecuted Christians, Father Andrew Dewan, director of communications in Pankshin Diocese where the violence took place, gave details of the atrocity.

He said: “Last week there were violent attacks in [three communities in the parish]. Ten people were killed and a pregnant woman had her stomach slit open. The baby was not spared.

“There is a pattern to these attacks, and they’re an ongoing feature of living in the region. They might be linked to the attacks over Christmas.”

In a four-day killing spree beginning on 23rd December, suspected Fulani militants attacked 26 villages in Bokkos claiming the lives of more than 300 Christians.

Citing an eyewitness, Father Dewan stated that the Easter Monday killings may have been revenge attacks: “In [one community], two Fulani youths were killed, and it was suspected the killers were from Tangur. One of the youths had his head removed.

“So they went hunting for the killers, and they killed 10 people in return.

“It’s a cycle of violence. Locals are looking for ways to defend themselves against the barrage of violence.

“The security response of the Government is inadequate. In times of crisis, communities don’t have confidence in governments to protect them. They take shelter in churches, which aren’t used to dealing with such a deluge of IDPs.”

Following the Christmas massacre, 16 camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) were set up in Bokkos, mostly by the Church, to provide shelter for those affected by the attacks.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates there to be 3.1 million IDPs across  Nigeria, fuelled by insurgency in the North-East and extremist Fulani herdsmen in the Middle Belt.

Father Andrew explained the pastoral response of his parish in the face of the IDP crisis: “It’s for us to sustain our preaching on the Gospel values, and exhort the government to safeguard the lives of the people.

“The primary function of government is the protection of life and property, so our government needs to play their part in that.

“Faith plays an important part, if not for the faith that has sustained the IDPs so far we would witness large scale conversion to other religions. In the face of these challenges, the IDPs have remained strong.”

He went on to stress the importance of the Church and aid agencies in addressing the needs of the IDPs and victims of extremist attacks:

The priest said: “Imagine cooking for thousands of people per month. We haven’t planned or stocked up for these emergencies, so we’re often caught unprepared.

“We often need to make appeals to organisations to help the diocese at the receiving end of these brutal attacks.

“It’s tough and challenging, so our response to these humanitarian emergencies has reinforced our faith in the Gospel. We see a church which is responsive, and which doesn’t forget their people or people of other faiths.

“The Church is there through thick and thin. [The IDPs’] faith in Christ and the Christian religion has sustained them up to this point.”