Gunmen suspected to be Fulani militants broke through a wall and overcame security guards at Bethel Baptist boarding school in Damishi Kaduna at 2am on Monday morning July 5, kidnapping more than 140 students. School officials say most of the students at the school were kidnapped, but some managed to escape. At last count, 28 students were back with their families while 125 remain missing. Kidnappers have reportedly demanded food for the children and indicated that ransom demands would be forthcoming.
“This is the fourth mass school kidnapping in Kaduna state since December,” says Representative Foley. “Extremist groups appear to be attacking schools because most typically have few or weak walls, open fields, and many students. Even the ones that hire security guards are no match for large groups of armed militants.”
According to Representative Foley, the Nigerian government has closed 13 other schools in the region out of concern for possible future attacks. “Muslim extremist groups disrupting the education of Christian children is one of the least recognized but longest lasting forms of persecution we see in Nigeria and other countries in Africa. The effects can go on for generations, as Christian children gradually fall behind others in their society in their education and ability to qualify for university or be trained for good jobs. Even if there are many Christians in a country, they can quickly become a permanent lower class in society.”
The Nigerian government has blamed bandits for the growing numbers of kidnappings and attacks against its Christian population. But according to Representative Foley, international observers recognize a religious dimension behind the attacks. “It is estimated by international observers that more Christians are kidnapped in Nigeria than any other country in the world,” says Representative Foley.
Flip flop sandals belonging to students of Bethel Baptist High School following an attack by gunmen in Damishi Kaduna, Nigeria, on July 6.
According to a report from the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom or Belief, Fulani militants have adopted “a comparable strategy to Boko Haram and ISWAP [Islamic State West Africa Province], and demonstrated a clear intent to target Christians and potent symbols of Christian identity.”
The 2021 Annual Report of the US Committee on International Religious Freedom notes that Boko Haram fighters beheaded the local chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Adamawa State because he refused to renounce his faith, while ISWAP fighters executed five aid workers as a warning to “all those being used by infidels to convert Muslims to Christianity”.
In a separate report, the US State Department cites Nigerian Minister of Culture Lai Mohammed, who declared Boko Haram and ISIS fighters “have started targeting Christians and Christian villages… to trigger a religious war and throw the nation into chaos.”
Christian schools and church buildings in Nigeria are seen as easy targets by Muslim extremists due to lack of walls and guards.
The US State Department also quotes the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Reverend Samson Ayokunle, who warns Fulani militants and others share “a goal to Islamise Nigeria”.
Representative Foley says the attacks may actually be achieving exactly the opposite effect. “These Muslim extremist groups are trying to discourage and frighten Christians into forsaking their faith. But in every attack the Lord seems to raise up ten acts of faithful witness by the Christians who are persecuted, even the children. The persecutors see this, and then they, not the Christians, are the ones who become discouraged. History shows that persecutors get tired of persecuting long before Christians get tired of serving Jesus.”
A comprehensive update on the situation facing Nigerian Christians can be found at https://vomkorea.com/en/country-profile/NIGERIA/. To make a donation to help Voice of the Martyrs Korea meet the needs of persecuted Nigerian Christians, visit www.vomkorea.com/en/donation or give via electronic transfer to:
국민은행 (KB Bank) 463501-01-243303
예금주(Account Holder): (사)순교자의소리
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