KADUNA, Nigeria—Authorities have yet to identify suspects or make arrests after a complete congregation of Baptists worshipers was kidnapped on the morning of Oct. 31 in a rural area 50 miles southwest of Kaduna City in north-central Nigeria. The attack is the latest instance of ethnic cleansing in the region, according to one expert.
At least 60 worshipers were kidnapped from Emmanuel Baptist Church, in Kakau Daji in southern Kaduna, according to Rev. Joseph Hayab, a Baptist cleric and president of the Kaduna chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria. The attack has forced vulnerable Christian clerics to go into hiding, Hayab told The Epoch Times. “The Baptist church is the worst-hit church in this state,” he said.
In another recent instance of the Baptist Church being targeted, on July 4, 121 students from the Bethel Baptist High School in Kaduna state were kidnapped, bringing the total of students kidnapped this year to more than 1,000.
Samuel Aruwan, Kaduna Commissioner of Home Security and Internal Affairs, said on Nov. 1 that in the attack on Emmanuel Baptist Church, two worshipers were killed and two severely injured while an unknown number was abducted after gunmen said to be “bandits” attacked the church around 11 a.m.
“Surviving as a Christian, and especially as a Christian cleric in Kaduna state, is largely by the mercy and grace of God if you are in these vulnerable communities,” Hayab told The Epoch Times on Nov. 3.
“These evil men came from nowhere and just went on a shooting spree at the Emmanuel Baptist Church, Kakau Daji.
“After killing two persons and injuring two, they gathered those who could not escape and walked them into the bush and no one has challenged them till now.
“We have verified and found out that 60 of our members were taken away by these haters of the church.
“Communication networks in areas where such attacks are common have been shut down by Kaduna state government under the directives of Gov. Nasir el-Rufai. This means that the criminals can come and do what they like, and no one has any means of calling for help.
“Among the people they kidnapped were several pregnant women, some that will soon give birth; there are also very old men and women, and children below 6 years, among others.
“Today is the third day, and they are yet to make contact with anybody. Put in mind that they kidnapped 121 Baptist students in July this year. Family members and sympathizers had to pay hundreds of millions of naira to secure their freedom in batches. And up till now we still have four students they are holding as hostages.”
According to the International Committee on Nigeria, militants from the Fulani, a Muslim tribe, have been attacking and displacing farmers of other faiths in the Middle Belt of Nigeria for about 20 years. The attacks have accelerated since 2015. More than 43,000 people have been murdered in these attacks, according to Lara Logan’s documentary “Nigeria, The New Face of Terrorism, 2021.”
“In the past one year, not less 10 clerics have been killed by armed gunmen, and at least 30 kidnapped, some with their families, and given humiliating maltreatment and abuses,” Hayab said.
“This is all to suppress Christianity and destroy the church. We that find ourselves vulnerable have to devise ways of surviving, because Christian clerics are their prime targets.”
Rev. Amos Doka Dan affirmed this, saying, “I move from one place to another and never stay in a place for a day or two.”
Dan was pastor of ECWA Church Unguwan Rohogo, which was burned when armed Fulani herdsmen invaded the community and killed 9 before razing the village on Aug. 21, 2021.
“They killed two of my colleagues in nearby villages, and I was informed that I am a target,” Dan said.
“I am involved in the ‘Act of Jesus’ as a caregiver to the needy in imitation of the kindness of Jesus, but I have to leave for now.”
Rev. Fada Cosmas Magaji, the parish priest of St. Thomas Catholic Church, oversees the recently attacked Madamai Community in Kuara county, where 38 Christians were slain by armed herdsmen in September 2021. He said the security situation remains dire.
“I have to ask for leave from my Bishop for security concern, even though I have made up my mind that I am not going to be far from my church,” he said. The priest coordinated the mass interment of the 38 slain Christians.
“For now, Madamai community is completely displaced.”
“What is going on southern Kaduna clearly bears the signature of ethnic/religious cleansing,” according to Emmanuel Umaru Musa, associate professor of criminology with Niger State University–Lapai.
“The political leadership of Nigeria and that of Kaduna state have subtly assured the so-called bandits that one religion is superior to the other, and as such, it is okay for them to stamp control over southern Kaduna and other parts of the Christian north.
“Kaduna state has become a criminogenic environment, and no one is doing anything to stop it because the drivers of the crime come from the same tribe and religion with the men at the helm of affairs of the country and Kaduna state.
“The aggressors that government have labeled ‘bandits’ are all known to be Muslim Fulani armed men who are engaged in establishing an Islamic sphere in areas where Islam was rejected for centuries and Christianity entrenched almost as soon as European missionaries set foot in that area.
“There is no crime committed by Boko Haram and ISWAP [ISIS in West African Province] that these ‘bandits’ have not committed over and over. So the resolve of the federal government led by Muhammadu Buhari not to label them as ‘terrorists’ is very indicting of his government.
“It is true that they attack Muslims and kidnap some of them, but the purpose of that crime is to raise money for arms and recruit more terrorists. But when they attack a Christian enclave, their aim is to steal, destroy, kill, and occupy the community. They also kidnap Christians basically to humiliate them, rape their women, and even marry their women by force. They also take ransom, all to further impoverish their Christian victims.”
Musa’s claim has long been backed by the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union. The socio-cultural group has stated that 112 Christian communities covering thousands of square miles of forest savannah have been taken over by armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen in the past two years.