The president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) urged members of the religious minority in the African country to rise and defend themselves, arguing that the capabilities of Boko Haram, herdsmen, and other groups that target followers of Christ exceed that of the nation’s security forces.
According to the Vanguard newspaper, Rev. Ayokunle Olasupo, who also serves as the president of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, declared:
It is common sense that you defend yourself from danger that is coming, but if you think it is not good to defend yourself, good luck. Don’t’ be naive. If these marauders appear to be more powerful than the government and they cannot save you from them, then we save ourselves
For about nine years now, these people have continued to kill, and it appears like they have more guns and tactics than the security agents. … If I allow them to take my life, I will be responsible for my foolishness.
Vanguard reports that the reverend was alluding to the threat posed by the Boko Haram jihadist group and herdsmen terrorizing Christians and other Nigerians.
David Curry, the CEO of Open Doors USA, a group that monitors the persecution of Christians across the world, warns that Muslim Fulani herdsmen are increasingly targeting Christians in Nigeria, estimated by the U.S. government to make up 40 percent of the population.
Curry told Breitbart News:
In some states, Open Doors has received reports from the field that 70 percent of the [militant Fulani herdsmen] attacks were on Christians or majority-Christian settlements. Open Doors fiercely stands against all violence, but we are particularly troubled by the violence that cuts down religious lines, creating classes of people who are more vulnerable purely because of how they express their faith.
Individually, these attacks may seem small and isolated, but collectively, these attacks have claimed the lives of thousands and the homes of even more.
The Open Doors chief urged the Nigerian government to combat both threats posed by Boko Haram and the Fulani herdsmen, telling Breitbart News:
Despite this rising threat [by militant Fulani herdsmen], we see little international coverage of this violence compared to that caused by Boko Haram. People know Boko Haram. This is the conflict in Nigeria that no one is talking about.
We call on the Nigerian government to address the issues of Boko Haram violence and to find a peaceful solution that allows Fulani herdsmen to have adequate grazing land, while still upholding the settlement claims of the established farmers.
Echoing the Open Doors and CAN Christian groups, Gen. Theophilus Danjuma, the former minister for defense in Nigeria, accused the Muslim herdsmen of “ethnic cleansing,” also urging Nigerians to defend themselves.
“You must rise to protect yourselves from these people, if you depend on the Arm Forces to protect you, you will all die,” he said in last month, reports Nigeria’s Daily Post.
Rev. Olasupo called on the relatively large Christian minority in Nigeria to “take charge,” noting that their participation in politics is essential to their future.
Citing the Amnesty International human rights group, Curry from Open Doors acknowledged that some Christians had killed members of the Muslim Fulani herdsmen group.
He told Breitbart News:
We are aware Amnesty International has reported instances of Christians killing Fulani people as well, but we are not able to confirm that report. In any instance, Open Doors condemns in the strongest terms any aggression from Christians if not out of self-defense. Over the many years that Christians have faced targeted violence, we have helped church leaders offer peaceful, biblical answers to their members who consider revenge.
According to Open Door’s annual World Watch List report for 2018, Nigeria is among the top 15 worst countries for Christian persecution.
“Islam is the dominant religion in the north of Nigeria, while Christianity is dominant in the south,” the report notes. “Radical groups, such as Boko Haram and Muslim Fulani herdsmen, violently persecute believers in the northern and Middle Belt regions.”
“In northern Nigeria, Christians are treated as second-class citizens. Christians from Muslim backgrounds face persecution from their own families who reject and pressure them to renounce Christianity,” it adds.