Christian Persecution Nov/Dec 2019
AKWANGA, Nigeria — As a Baptist church member tried to fight off an armed Muslim Fulani herdsman in a village in north-central Nigeria, he told his 7-year-old nephew and other relatives to run. The boy remained, crying and calling for help.
Jerome, whose real name is withheld for security reasons, recalled how gunshots woke him and his family around midnight in Gwanje village, 18 kilometers (11 miles) from Akwanga in Nasarawa state. His account of a relatively limited attack gives a glimpse of how hundreds of Christian families have been terrorized by herdsmen.
A neighbor rushed over to tell Jerome’s father that he had received a call that the herdsmen were attacking from the south and coming toward their home north of the village.
Jerome’s father, 39, told his younger brother, 21-year-old Istifanus Arewa, to take the family into hiding in a forest 200 meters (219 yards) away. As Jerome fled with his uncle, mother, and grandmother, the herdsmen began to shoot at them, the boy said.
“My uncle pulled me down and asked my mother and grandmother to also lie down on the ground in order to avoid the bullets that were being shot at us,” Jerome told Morning Star News. “As we lay there on the ground, one of the herdsmen came to where we were and pointed his gun at my uncle. When the Fulani man was about to shoot my uncle, my uncle jumped up and grabbed him, and they began to wrestle each other.”
Arewa shouted for them to run, the boy said.
“My mother and grandmother ran away while I stood there crying and calling for help,” Jerome said. “But as this was going on, another Fulani man shot me, and the bullet hit me on the upper side of my right shoulder. I fell down and crawled under a thick shrub.”
He watched as his uncle and the other Fulani wrestled. The herdsman who shot Jerome then turned and shot at his uncle, who was holding tightly to the other Fulani.
“The shooting brought the two of them down, and after sensing that he killed both my uncle and the other Fulani, the Fulani man left,” Jerome said. “I ran back to the village and saw an open door to a room in another house, where I entered and hid. I was in there until my parents and other people found me in that room the following morning.”
Arewa was a member of the Men’s Missionary Union of the Bishara Baptist Church in Gwanje. He died trying to save his relatives, said Jerome’s father, a lay leader in the Baptist church.
“My younger brother, in order to protect the little boy, my wife and mother, braved it to wrestle with the armed Fulani man,” he said.
He confirmed that the shot that killed his brother instantly killed the other Fulani also.
“This singular act by my brother, who fought with his bare hands against the Fulani man, forced the herdsmen to retreat,” he said. “If this bravery and heroic act by my younger brother had not happened, the herdsmen would no doubt have killed us all and burned down our homes.”
Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.
Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution. To read the full article, go to tinyurl.com/morningstarNIGERIA.