Genocide Loading in Nigeria was the focus of our two panel discussions at the July 15 side-event hosted by Jubilee Campaign and other partners. This International Religious Freedom Roundtable side event contributed to the 2019 International Religious Freedom Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom held by the United States Department of State, with events occurring throughout the week in Washington, DC.
Violence against Christians in the northeast and central states of Nigeria has been lengthy and on-going. The Boko Haram terrorist group and Fulani militants, along with other radicalised armed groups were responsible for killing over 3,000 Christians during the period November 2017 through October 2018, according to Open Doors. The Nigerian government must end the impunity and stop this genocidal eradication of Christian communities in the Northeast and Central states of Nigeria.
The inaction of the Nigerian federal government to address the violent land-grabbing tactics of the Fulani militants was addressed by the Honorable Terwase Orbunde who is the Chief of Staff to the Governor of Benue State. His state is no stranger to these attacks. In Benue state there are around 180,000 Internally Displaced Persons, mostly women and children, who have been displaced by the Fulani militia. The militants have driven the Christian communities from their farms and their vocations. “This is on a micro-level, it is happening in various states across the country,” he said.
“Children, women, are in camps; they are displaced because Fulani militia have come after them…They have had to leave their farms and their vocations…This is on a micro-level, it is happening in various states across the country.”– Honorable Terwase Orbunde, Chief of Staff Benue State.
Former Congressman Frank Wolf – who has visited Nigeria on numerous occasions – urged the faith community to wake up. He said the church has got to be involved and too few prominent names have spoken out. He also declared the need for a legal brief, conclusively demonstrating that what is going on in Nigeria is Genocidal. “Until you can make the case that this is genocide, you will not get the traction you need.” He recounted the successful joint efforts to obtain international condemnation of the Genocide by ISIS of Christians in Syria. A legal brief formed the bases for the successful resolutions declaring that the attacks on the Christians in Syria was genocide. Mr. Wolf cited to the respected academic, Dr. Gregory Stanton, who heads Genocide Watch, and who agrees that Boko Haram-perpetrated crimes amount to Genocide of Christians in the northeast of Nigeria. Although Fulani militant attacks fit the definition of crimes against humanity, more briefing is needed to conclusively show that the Fulani militant attacks meet the international definition of Genocide.
Former Congressman Wolf expressed concern at how the international community has forgotten Nigeria. The Bring Back Our girls campaign, referring to coordinated global efforts to find and release hundreds of Christian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, has become silent although more than half the girls are still in captivity, including Leah Sharibu who refused to convert and was kept by Boko Haram.
“So it is clearly genocide for Boko Haram and genocidal, at least, for Fulani militants.”Rt. Congressman Frank Wolf.
Both Hon. Frank Wolf and Hon. Terwase Orbunde emphasised the importance of Nigeria. “Nigeria is one of the largest countries in Africa,” said Rt. Congressman Wolf. Hon. Orbunde said, “It is important for America to know an implosion of Nigeria will be disaster for the whole global community because you are talking about 200 million people affected.”
Mr. Frank Gaffney took up the correlation of ISIS and Boko Haram’s desire to enforce shari’a law and how it will have detrimental effects for West Africa. He said that perpetrators have to be held accountable for their actions vocally and through economic sanctions as was exerted by the U.S. during Turkish President Erdogan’s false imprisonment of Pastor Andrew Brunson in Turkey for approximately two years. He also added that enablers of perpetrators, such as American law firms lobbying to protect countries from accountability, should also be held accountable.
The second panel focused on the victims and survivors of the genocidal violence in Nigeria and also the steps to take.
Pastor Yakubu Bakfwash – a survivor of terrorism in Nigeria – shared his story and the need for action. He said, “We need help. I would be grateful if this help can come today. Now is the day of salvation. Our people are in dear need of help.”
Toynin Shonowo, also from Nigeria, shared stories of her family members. She has advocated with Wilberforce Initiative and was involved in the launch this year of the religious roundtable in Nigeria. The need for intervention is urgent.
Ann Buwalda, Executive Director of Jubilee Campaign, brought up the need to identify specific responsible organizations and individuals and to hold the perpetrators accountable. In September 2016 Jubilee Campaign submitted a report to the International Criminal Court (ICC) providing evidence that Fulani militants were engaged in Crimes Against Humanity in the northeast of Nigeria. In June 2017 Jubilee Campaign submitted to the ICC a second report which named suspects amongst the Fulani militants. At the side event Jubilee Campaign handed out a summary of findings showing that Genocide is imminent and the focus of a new report. Jubilee Campaign will work in collaboration with others in producing the Genocide Brief.
Buwalda described the countless near daily cases of violence she receives from partners through WhatsApp and she read that days report of the murder of a Christian pastor. “Every time I receive those texts, I weep.It is the conscience of us around the world who needs to weep.” She urged NGOs and individuals to share data, so that the conflict does not go unreported. Prompt reaction must broadcast the Nigerian government’s failure to protect its citizens, in hopes that they will end impunity. She finished by saying, “We need to take what we have learnt and take it beyond the doors here. We must speak up for those who are both victims that have already died and survivors in need of help. May their blood not be wasted, may they be remembered, and may we carry forward for the survivors to re-establish and rehabilitate. That is our goal and that is our objective.”
Faith McDonnell with the Institute on Religion and Democracy also shared testimonies of those affected by the violence and the need to be moved to compassion. Social media is a powerful tool for everyone to use and tell the stories of the victims. Submitting editorials, undertaking rallies, and spreading the word must relentlessly be done. She ended by sharing of when God will wipe away every tear, “That day is coming, but until then we have a lot of work to do, so let’s get going!”
“We need to take what we have learnt and take it beyond the doors here… please speak up everywhere you can to ensure that justice is done and perpetrators are prosecuted and that the violence stops.”-Ann Buwalda, Executive Director of Jubilee Campaign USA
If you would like to do more for Nigeria do not hesitate to contact us or follow us on social media, start a prayer group, speak to your congressman, donate, support our advocacy efforts, protest…There is no action too small.