Terrorism index has adjudged Fulani herdsmen terrorists as the fourth most
deadly terror group in the world after Boko Haram, Al Shabab, ISIS and Al
Qaeda. The worse victim of the terror group in Nigeria is the Church.
Though factors attributed
to the cause of the herdsmen terror are the global climate change leading to
increased desertification of the Sahel region; the drying up of the Lake Chad
and its attendant effect of loss of fodder leading to movement of the herdsmen
from the Sahel region to the savannah and the rainforest of the South. As
reasonable as this may sound, there are two other factors that cannot be
glossed over if the herdsmen challenge is to be put in a proper perspective.
One is the political factor. Political dominance has accounted for Fulani
aggression against their host communities from the 19th Century. On record is
the conquest of the ancient seven Hausa states from the 1804 Usman Danfodio
Jihad to the present onslaught. The second factor is the religious conflict and
the spread of Islam. The latter factor is the focus of this write-up, as it
concerns what should be the response of the Church.
Though several attempts
have been made and are still being made to divest the challenge of any
religious colouration, the arguments are wishy-washy with plans to deceive the
nation and the Church. It is evident that from Taraba to Adamawa; Benue to
Nasarawa and down to southern Kaduna and Plateau State, which are the most ravaged
communities by the Fulani herdsmen, are the Christian dominated communities.
Apart from the Fulanis who are herdsmen, the Hausas are farmers like the other
ethnic groups in the middle belt. So far there has not been any record of
Fulani attack on the Muslim dominated areas in any of the States. These
partial/selective attacks suggest very strongly a calculated attempt to
annihilate and/or convert the Christian-dominated communities to Islam. If it
is not so, what then justifies the attacks of Christian worshippers during
worship sessions; with their priests and members gruesomely killed and their
worship places completely demolished? The venues of these attacks were not
farmlands, such that it could be argued that the animals were restrained from
It is therefore clear
that the Church is the target of these constant attacks by Fulani herdsmen. The
earlier the Church understands this, the better as that will facilitate an
effective response. Until now the Church’s response to these bestial acts have been
reactive rather than proactive. It ought not to be so! So far, the Church does
not have any programme for forestalling incidents; except perhaps several
uncoordinated prayer actions and therefore no sustainable prayer fire to
destabilise the enemy.
Furthermore, the Church
has been reacting on a denominational basis. This sectional approach to a
common problem, rather than bring victory/succour, has continued to weaken our
strength. In some cases, the attitude of the Church appears to be a voluntary/humanitarian
service, with no definite plans to cater for the victims of attacks or identify
with Christ-like interest to the sorrows and pains of their fellow brethren.
In the face of these
daunting challenges and uncoordinated response strategies, it becomes necessary
that the Church in Nigeria should, with a concerted effort, rise up to the need
of the hour, see the monster for what it is, that is, the persecution of
Christians, take more and definite proactive measures if the Church must
survive. In this regard, the following are suggested:
• Well organised prayer actions in the manner
of the Jews with Haman versus Esther and Mordecai (Esther
4:16). This type of prayer is likened to the prayer and fasting of the
Ninevites at the message of Jonah. It was a fasting that affected the babies in
their mothers’ wombs and the animals in their pens. For the Jews and the
Ninevites, it was for their survival, and whatever price was to be paid for
national survival was not considered to be too much. Until the Nigerian Church
sees the challenge of the herdsmen as a threat to Church survival and drops
blame-gaming but adopts an effective and concerted prayer pattern, the danger
may not be averted.
• Well-coordinated National Civil
disobedience in the manner of the Jews in Egypt led by Moses (Exodus
12). The Passover night was to be the eve of Jewish civil disobedience against
the constituted authority of Pharaoh and Egypt over the Jewish collective
interests. In the morning after the Passover, they were to leave Egypt whether
Pharaoh liked it or not. All the Jews were ready and participated. It is very
sad and shameful to note that recent calls from Christian Association of
Nigeria (CAN) for mass action are treated with levity. Many denominations
refused to respond to these calls. The impact of a well-organised and total
response of the Nigerian Church to one or two days of sit-at-home by the Church
in Nigeria can only be imagined. From Sokoto to Bakasi; from Bama to Otuoke;
from Obudu to Badagry; if anything and anybody associated with the Church sits
at home for 48hours. The effect would be stronger than the Jewish Exodus from
Egypt. The effect would be more far-reaching than the Arab spring.
• Well-coordinated self-defence as was
practised by the Nehemiah Team (Nehemiah 4:8, 9&14).
Nehemiah made prayers, set a watch (night and day) as well as raised men with
sword, spear and bow to defend those who were working on the walls. Nehemiah’s
men were not “offensive” but “defensive”. Whoever says one
should not defend oneself is actually suggesting submission to death in the
circumstance. This self-defence should not be individualistic but corporate. I
am yet to see the capacity of the Nigeria Prisons that can contain the Nigerian
Christians. The enemy uses divide and rule and selective reprisals. If the
Church operates a collective resistance, the impact will be unprecedented.
• A well-coordinated humanitarian response is
inevitable if the suffering victims must be rehabilitated by their brethren.The sordid things that are happening
at the IDP camps are too obvious and ugly for a mention. The rape,
discrimination and other humiliating experiences of all the IDPs generally and
those of the Christian faith, in particular, are bestial, to say the least.
Besides the effort of the Red Cross, the CARITAS and other international
humanitarian and donor agencies, the Nigerian Church must have a home-grown
humanitarian programme to meet the needs of the IDPs and also engage in
rehabilitation efforts. This is the only way to ensure that the victims are
adequately taken care of and eventually rehabilitated.
The Bible urges
Christians to be as harmless as a dove but as wise as the serpent. Though one
of the most despised/hated and feared creatures, the serpent, can and does
survive in the midst of overwhelming enemies. Why and how? The snake applies
wisdom to be able to survive in its ecosystem. It does not trust any creature
in its environment and so it is always ready to defend itself using the two
deadly weapons it has; which are its fangs and saliva. May the Church develop
and demonstrate such a survival strategy that will cause the enemies to relate
with her with care.