Suspected Fulani Islamists hacked a Christian couple and their daughter to death with machetes in Nigeria this week, local media reported Thursday.
Clement and Christiana Ukertor were killed on their farm on November 29 in Benue State in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, where most Fulani-driven anti-Christian violence occurs. The following day the body of their 17-year-old daughter Dooyum was found in the bush.
The couple’s 20-year-old daughter Blessing survived the attack but suffered multiple deep machete wounds and was rushed to the hospital in critical condition.
Christiana Ukertor was the chairwoman of Saint Joseph Catholic mission in Yelwata, a small settlement bordering Nasarawa State that has often been targeted by the Fulani raiders.
Frank Utoo, principal special assistant to the governor of Benue state on project monitoring, confirmed that “Dooyum was killed in the attack and Blessing who also was on the farm at the time of the attack was lucky to have survived with deep machete cuts all over her body.”
“She is hospitalized and is yet to find out that her dad, mom and sister are all dead as a result of the attack on their farms,” he added.
This past summer, presumed Fulani extremists killed 37 people in a Christian-majority area of Benue State as families were preparing for Sunday worship. Dozens of homes were destroyed in the attack and more than 500 people were driven from their homes.
The Fulani raiders have killed so many Christians in the past several years that experts now insist that the threat they pose is far greater than that of the Boko Haram Islamic terror group.
The Nigerian-based International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law reported that some 2,400 Christians were killed by the Fulani in 2018 alone. And Nigeria’s Daily Post revealed that in the 3-year period 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.
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While mainstream media have insisted that the anti-Christian violence by Muslim herdsmen is not religiously motivated, that has not been the experience of people on the ground.
“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 noted during a 2019 Rome conference on anti-Christian persecution.
In December 2019, the Wall Street Journal published a report stating that Islamist Fulani militants have been waging a brutal war on Nigeria’s Christians in a campaign to rid the country’s Middle Belt of non-Muslims.
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Fulani radicals now pose a greater threat than the Islamic terror group Boko Haram, French intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy wrote, and they carry out systematic attacks against Christians, which include burning, raping, maiming, pillaging, and killing.
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.
Two local Catholic bishops, however, 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.”
Nigeria’s population of some 206 million is almost evenly divided between Muslims and Christians. Islam is the predominant faith in the North and Christianity in the South, but most killings take place in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, where the two halves of the country meet.