The ongoing slaughter of Christians in Nigeria is part of a “hidden agenda” to convert the nation to Islam, an agenda that reaches to the highest echelons of the nation’s leadership, according to local prelates.
Father Valentine Obinna, a priest of the Aba diocese in Nigeria, told the online Catholic news outlet Crux that the recent murders of priests and other Christians are not isolated events but are tied to a long-term program of the “Islamization of Nigeria.”
“It’s obvious. It’s underground. It’s trying to make the whole country a Muslim country,” Father Obinna said. “But they are trying to do that in a context with a strong presence of Christians, and that’s why it becomes very difficult for him,” he said, in reference to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.
The reason Christians have become targets is that Buhari and those in power “want to make sure the whole country becomes a Muslim country,” and they are using Boko Haram and the Fulani to achieve that objective, he said.
“People read the handwriting on the wall,” Obinna said.
In one of the most underreported stories of the year, Nigeria has seen rampant attacks on the Christian population of the country.
A recent report by the Jubilee Campaign asserted that 52 lethal, anti-Christian attacks took place in Nigeria during the first six months of 2019.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian-based International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law declared that some 2,400 Christians were killed by the Fulani in 2018 alone. And Nigeria’s Daily Post reported last year that from June 2015 to June 2018, Fulani militants “killed 8,800 Christians and other non-Muslims,” torching “not less than 1,000″ churches and other places of worship during the same period.
While mainstream media have insisted that the anti-Christian violence by Muslim herdsmen is not religiously motivated, that is not the experience of people on the ground, Allen notes.
“It’s tough to tell Nigerian Christians this isn’t a religious conflict since what they see are Fulani fighters clad entirely in black, chanting ‘Allahu Akbar!’ and screaming ‘Death to Christians,’” Sister Monica Chikwe of the Hospitaler Sisters of Mercy told journalist John L. Allen at a Rome conference this summer on anti-Christian persecution.
The secular media have largely downplayed the religious nature of the Fulani killings, preferring to attribute the violence to “ethnic tensions,” a “battle for land and resources,” or even “climate change.”
Nigeria’s President Buhari, who is himself of the Fulani ethnic group, has encouraged this narrative, minimizing the importance of religion in the conflict.
Others, however, concur with Father Obinna that a larger project is underway.
Two local Catholic bishops, for instance, have insisted that the violence represents a “clear agenda for Islamizing the Nigerian Middle Belt” by using armed Fulani jihadists as weapons.
One of the bishops, Matthew Ishaya Audu of Lafia, said in 2018 that the ongoing attacks are not random or economically motivated, but purposefully target Christians.
“They want to strike Christians,” Bishop Audu said, “and the government does nothing to stop them, because President Buhari is also of the Fulani ethnic group.”