A bishop from Nigeria has told EU parliamentarians that extremism against Christians is taking place in eastern Benue State.
Bishop Wilfred Anagbe of Makurdi called the situation in Nigeria, “nothing short of a Jihad clothed in many names: terrorism, kidnappings, killer herdsmen, banditry, and other militia groups.” at an event held in the European Parliament in Brussels earlier this week.
Bishop Anagbe, who was speaking during a trip to Europe organised by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), stressed that religion is a key factor in the conflict.
He said that “the attacks – particularly in Benue State – increasingly look like a jihad against Christians”.
He said: “Figures from the Benue State government again reveal that as of June 2022, Benue State has suffered over 200 attacks with property worth over ₦500 billion destroyed and close to 2 million people displaced and living in camps across the State.”
In Nigeria’s Middle Belt, which includes Benue State, millions have become Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) largely because of attacks by extremist nomadic Fulani herders.
Bishop Anagbe went on to say that “even though the outside world knows the extent of the ongoing killings and displacement of Christian communities in Nigeria, there exists what I term a conspiracy of silence.
“However, what is happening now is beyond conspiracy, it is rather openly supporting, aiding and abetting the perpetrators of these acts as no one culprit is ever arrested.”
The prelate outlined many of the problems caused by militant action in the Middle Belt region, adding: “Many children have had their education cut short as their parents, unable to go to their farms, cannot cater for their school needs.
“There is a palpable food insecurity and there is the complete loss of human dignity as men, women and children often resort to unsafe coping mechanisms for survival.”
The bishop also highlighted a number of other deadly incidents which have occurred in the country over the last few months, including the abduction of several priests, a young girl being stoned to death and then set on fire for alleged blasphemy, and a Pentecost Sunday church attack in western Nigeria, which left more than 40 dead.
He said: “It is impossible to maintain one’s equilibrium after witnessing the massacre of innocent and defenceless people in the face of harsh economic conditions, notwithstanding our role as God’s ministers.
“The pain is much and the wounds not likely to heal any time soon.”