8,000 Christians Killed in Nigeria in the Last Year, Group Says

8,000 Christians Killed in Nigeria in the Last Year, Group Says

More than 8,000 Christians were reportedly killed in Nigeria in 2023, according to a recent report released by the Anambra-based International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety), a human rights organization. 

The deaths occurred amid a rise in attacks, abductions and killings in recent years, according to estimates included in the report. 

Intersociety is an organization headed by Christian criminologist Emeka Umeagbalasi, and has been critical of the Nigerian government. It reports that at least 8,222 Christians were killed across Nigeria from January 2023 to January 2024. At least 200 were killed in January 2024 alone, the report said, including more than 50 deaths recorded in Plateau State.

Intersociety attributes the deaths to various extremist groups, including radicalized Fulani herdsmen, Boko Haram and others, with a notable number of victims also resulting from actions by Nigerian security forces.

Most of the attacks occurred in states like Benue, Plateau, Kaduna and Niger, with thousands of Christians abducted and hundreds of churches destroyed or attacked, Intersociety says. 

“Through the deceitful and camouflaged ‘internal military operations,’ the Fulani Jihadists were militarily protected to invade southern and middle belt farmlands, bushes and forests,” the NGO charges. “This is to the extent that, today, the highest concentration of the Fulani Herdsmen’s jihadist terror activities in the South and the Middle-Belt and other Christian-held areas in the North are found near military or other security formations.”

Benue state reportedly experienced the most Christian deaths, with 1,450 fatalities, followed closely by Plateau state with 1,400. Kaduna and Niger states also saw significant losses, with 822 and 730 Christians killed, respectively. In addition to the loss of life, the report highlights the abduction of over 8,400 Christians nationwide, with a distressing number of these individuals never returning alive.

The violence has led to attacks on 500 churches in 2023 alone, contributing to a total of 18,500 churches attacked since 2009.

The report also notes the abduction of 70 Christian clerics within the year, with at least 25 killed. These attacks have not only targeted individuals but have also devastated communities, with over 300 Christian communities reportedly sacked in 2023.

The number of deaths provided by Intersociety is double the number suggested by other watchdogs also raising the warning flag about religious freedom conditions in Nigeria, who use more conservative estimates. Still, the more conservative figures suggest an alarming rate of violence happening in Nigeria. 

Intersociety relies on what it deems to be credible media reports, government accounts, reports from international rights groups and eyewitness accounts to compile statistical data. 

In its World Watch List 2024 report, Open Doors says at least 4,998 Christians were killed for their faith in 2023 worldwide. Of that number, Open Doors reports that around 90% of those were in Nigeria, where more than 4,000 were killed. Open Doors ranks Nigeria as the sixth-worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution.

Intersociety calls for international attention and action, urging the appointment of a United Nations secretary-general’s special emergency envoy on Nigeria and a UN Security Council resolution to authorize a comprehensive investigation into the systematic attacks against Christians.

The group emphasizes the need for a global response to address what it describes as a “Jihadist Genocide of Christians” in Nigeria.

The Nigerian government has long pushed back on claims that the violence occurring in the Middle Belt states between herders and farmers constitutes religious violence. Christian human rights advocates have accused the government of overlooking religious elements and not doing enough to protect Nigerian citizens. 

Photo: Krill / Newsroom

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