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4/1/2024 Nigeria (International Christian Concern) On the evening of Good Friday, Christians gathered to worship in their church building that Islamic Fulani militants had set on fire in 2022. Despite still not having a roof above them, they worshiped God and remembered Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. 

The site of believers worshiping in burned churches is a common one in rural communities throughout Nigeria’s Middle Belt region, where the militants armed with AK-47s and machetes have frequently attacked Christian villages. In Plateau state’s Bassa county alone, more than 2,000 Christians have been killed in these attacks throughout the years.

An ICC staffer joined the roughly 70 worshippers as they gathered in the remains of their church building in Ariri, a village with a population of 457 people. The village has suffered multiple attacks since 2016. That year, Fulani militants killed 19 people. In 2017, they burned several homes and destroyed farmland. A year later, one person was killed, and more farmland was destroyed. In 2019, 91 acres of farmland were destroyed — including nearly 10 acres sponsored by ICC.

Many villagers were displaced following attacks in 2020, and in 2021, Fulani militias barred villagers who remained from accessing their farmland and cattle. In 2022, Fulani militants killed five people and burned down several homes and a church. The entire town of Miango was displaced. In 2023, villagers returned to the village to rebuild their homes and churches. In February 2024, militants attacked a group of six people, killing one person. A woman was also raped during the attack.

The pastor encouraged the worshipers to endure worshipping under the sun for the sake of Christ and to pray that such suffering would soon come to pass.  

“Continue to give gratitude to God and be prayerful,” he added.

The ICC staffer spoke with worshippers following the service. “I lost my left eye by a bullet during the attack in 2016,” a farmer told the staffer. “My farm was destroyed, and (my) house was burned too. I lost seven of my family members, including my son, in 2024.”

The farmer said the purpose of the ongoing attacks on the community was to wipe out Christians from the village.

“We are ready to die for Christ’s sake,” he said before urging his brothers and sisters in Christ to pray for Christians enduring ongoing persecution in North-Central Nigeria.

During this year’s Good Friday service, the pastor read Matthew 27-32 and 39 and Mark 16:1-8 and used the Scriptures to create a context for the attacks.

“Jesus’ death is not like that of our own human death, but it is for us to be free from sin,” the pastor told the congregation. “Jesus Christ has suffered because of us; therefore, we should be ready to endure suffering because of Christ.”

A 16-year-old boy who lost his friend, Bulus, in the February attack also asked for prayer.  

“I have forgiven the Fulani [militants],” he said. “Pray for me to be strong. I lost my legs, and I can’t farm anymore. Pray for me.” 

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