ABUJA, Nigeria — Suspected Fulani herdsmen in southwestern Nigeria last week kidnapped Christian workers taking a bus to a wedding, while another group of Christians was kidnapped en route to a funeral in the same state.
A relative of one of 48 Christians who were kidnapped off a Coaster bus going from Ondo state to attend the funeral in Edo state on Nov. 24 said her cousin escaped because she was beaten and left for dead.
“My cousin was beaten almost to the point of death because she couldn’t walk fast,” Judith Akande told Morning Star News in a text message. “They left her thinking she was dead. She later got revived and was wandering in the bush until a man found her and took her to a pastor of the Christ Apostolic Church.”
Four other captives also escaped, and her cousin received medical treatment, she said.
“Her daughter is among 43 others who are still held hostage,” Akande said. “Please join me in prayer for their release from their captors, who are believed to be herdsmen.”
Also on Nov. 24, suspected herdsmen in Edo state kidnapped 23 workers from Peace House, a Christian ministry based in Gboko, Benue state, off a Coaster bus as they were in transit to the wedding of the organization president’s son.
As they traveled from Benue state to Ilorin, Kwara state, at about 4 p.m. they were kidnapped near Ibillo town, Edo state, according to Chidi Nwabuzor, spokesman for the Edo State Command, who said police and local searchers found and rescued nine of the captives from the wilderness. Nwabuzor added that the bus passengers were kidnapped while on the Lagos-Abuja Road in the Akoko Edo Local Government Area of Edo state.
The next day, Friday (Nov. 25), the searchers found five more of the abducted passengers in the wilderness, bringing the total recovered to 14, he said.
Ministry associate Segun Ariyo said in a text message to Morning Star News that two of the kidnapped church workers and the bus driver reported the crime after escaping when their captors were marching them into the wilderness. He requested prayer for the remaining captives and their families, including Peace House President Gbile Akanni.
“Please mobilize other Christians within your circles of influence to pray for the release of our brethren,” Ariyo said. “Let us also pray for our father, brother Gbile Akanni, his wife, the couple-to-be, and all the elders of Peace House for faith, wisdom, courage and patience at this critical hour. We know how critical this time is for him.”
Numbering in the millions across Nigeria and the Sahel, predominantly Muslim Fulani comprise hundreds of clans of many different lineages who do not hold extremist views. But some Fulani do adhere to radical Islamist ideology, the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom or Belief (APPG) noted in a recent report.
“They adopt a comparable strategy to Boko Haram and ISWAP [Islamic State West Africa Province] and demonstrate a clear intent to target Christians and potent symbols of Christian identity,” the APPG report states.
Christian leaders in Nigeria have said they believe herdsmen attacks on Christian communities in Nigeria’s Middle Belt are inspired by their desire to forcefully take over Christians’ lands and impose Islam as desertification has made it difficult for them to sustain their herds.
Nigeria led the world in Christians killed for their faith last year (Oct. 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2021) at 4,650, up from 3,530 the previous year, according to Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List report. The number of kidnapped Christians was also highest in Nigeria, at more than 2,500, up from 990 the previous year, according to the WWL report.
Nigeria trailed only China in the number of churches attacked, with 470 cases, according to the report.
In the 2022 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria jumped to seventh place, its highest ranking ever, from No. 9 the previous year.
Morning Star News is the only independent news service focusing exclusively on the persecution of Christians. The nonprofit's mission is to provide complete, reliable, even-handed news in order to empower those in the free world to help persecuted Christians, and to encourage persecuted Christians by informing them that they are not alone in their suffering.