ROME – At least 3,462 Christians, including ten priests or pastors, were murdered in Nigeria in the first 200 days of 2021.
The number, just 68 deaths short to the estimated total for 2020, is aligned with the warnings from human rights organizations that focus on anti-Christian persecution regarding the rise of religious-motivated violence in Nigeria, and a nation where the Christian and Muslim populations are widely considered as more or less evenly split.
According to a recent report coming from Nigeria itself produced by the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law, the number of unarmed Christians who were murdered by members of the Islamic terrorist organization Boko Haram or other Jihadist groups between Jan. 1 to July 18, 2021, is barely lower to the one estimated by Open Door’s International for 2020.
Breaking it down, the number means that 17 Christians a day were murdered for reasons related to their faith the first half of 2020, the second highest daily average since 2014, when over 5,000 Christian deaths were recorded in the hands of Boko Haram and jihadist Fulani herdsmen.
In addition to the Christians who’ve been killed in the first 200 days of 2021, some 3,000 Christians, many of them young girls and women, have been kidnapped by Islamic terrorists and their whereabouts remains unknown. The people behind the report estimate, extrapolating from previous cases, that at least three out of every ten kidnapped Christians have been killed.
At a structural level, close to 300 churches were threatened or attacked and closed or destroyed or burnt since January 2021.
The International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law is a research and investigative rights group which has been monitoring and investigating religious persecution and other forms of religious violence by state and non-state actors across Nigeria since 2010. In the report on violence against Christians this year, they noted that they do their research “through the use of direct contacts with the victims, eyewitnesses, media tracking, review of credible local and international reports, interviews and closed sources and so on.”
In their mission statement, they defined themselves as an “independent and not-for-profit human rights, democracy, rule of law and security and safety advocacy group advocating for and defending the rights of the people within and beyond the shores of Nigeria.”
“This we do irrespective of the victim or his or her victimized group’s tribe, religion, gender, age, color, status or class,” is what they have on their website. “We factually and consistently investigate rights abuses and violations, especially those involving crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide and other internationally prohibited acts including torture and other inhuman treatments; expose them widely including their perpetrators and pressure those with power to respect and protect rights and secure justice for the victims.”
In the report about anti-Christian persecution in Nigeria, they also note that it’s “deeply saddening” that to date, those responsible for the anti-Christian “butcheries” in the country have “continued to evade justice and remained unchecked, untracked, uninvestigated and untried; leading to impunity and repeat atrocities.”
They also argue that the government has completely “abandoned” the victims, those who have survived attacks with lasting physical and mental scars, and their families.
“The country’s security forces have so fumbled and compromised that they hardly intervene when the vulnerable Christians are in danger of threats or attacks, but only emerge after such attacks to arrest and frame up the same population threatened or attacked,” the society found.
In the Muslim-majority north of the country, the jihadists operate freely under the cover and protection of the security forces, the report argues, with fundamentalists abducting, killing, looting, destroying or burning and forcefully converting their captive and unprotected Christians and their homes and sacred places of worship and learning. However, the report argues, the same security forces “hatefully and brutally respond with utter ferocity against Southern and Northern Christians accused of infraction or offending the law.”
Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma