A staggering 1,470 Christians were killed by Islamist jihadists in Nigeria in the first four months of 2021, a non-profit in the country has said.
The claim came in a report by the Intersociety for Civil Liberty and Rule of Law, which said that another 2,200 were abducted in the same time period.
The largest proportion of killings occurred in Kaduna state, northern Nigeria, with 300 dead. Another 200 were killed in Benue state and 90 in Plateau state.
Over half of the killings were attributed to radicalized Fulani herdsmen, but the report refutes the common claim that the violence against Christians is simply down to a dispute over natural resources.
“[The Nigerian and state governments] have made several deliberate attempts to cover the egregious and grisly massacre of Christians in Nigeria by falsely labelling them as ‘herders-farmers clashes,’ or attacks by ‘bandits,’ or ‘killings that cut across Muslims and Christians,” the report says.
Some 800 abductions occurred in Kaduna, more than any other state. In Niger, there were another 300 abductions.
Among those abducted are farmers, travellers and people living in rural communities. It is feared that at least 220 of the abducted Christians have died or been killed by their captors.
In Katsina state, the report says that “under-age Christian girls are forcefully married to Muslim men and converted to Islam.”
The findings are based on reports from local and foreign media, the government, international human rights groups and eye witnesses.
“Nigeria has devastatingly remained the ‘most Christian killed country’ and ‘most dangerous place to be a Christian’ as well as Africa’s newest hotbed of Islamic Jihad and religious intolerance,” the report said.
Christians have been warning about the situation in Nigeria for some time.
The latest report from the US Commission on International and Religious Freedom warns that Nigeria is heading “relentlessly toward a Christian genocide.”
Illia Djadi, Open Doors’ senior analyst on freedom of religion in sub-Saharan Africa, recently said that Christians across Nigeria are living in fear of being attacked or abducted.
“People are no longer safe in Nigeria,” he said.
“If you travel you are risking your life.
“People all over Nigeria travel fearing they will be kidnapped or attacked. They go to bed fearing they will be kidnapped or attacked. They go to church fearing they will be kidnapped or attacked.”