The New York Times has not published a single article on the plight of persecuted Christians across the globe since the coronavirus struck the United States in mid-March.
But during that time, the relentless persecution of Christians has persisted, hidden by the cover of the virus.
Islamic Fulani militants and Boko Haram have gone on slaughtering Christians in northern Nigeria, using the coronavirus as an opportunity to further their cause of jihad. It’s a continuing massacre that has resulted in the deaths of at least 11,500 Christians since 2015.
The violence against Christians in Nigeria is only worsening under the coronavirus, Marcus Ibrahim told The American Spectator on Thursday. Ibrahim is the Anglican Archbishop of the Jos Ecclesiastical Province in Nigeria’s Plateau State. He has a joy for life and a peacefulness that cannot be overcome by the terrible hardship his community endures, saying today that he is praying for the United States.
Plateau State is located in Nigeria’s Middle Belt region, which has faced the brunt of the violence. On April 9, the state was placed under total lockdown and churches were forced to close due to the coronavirus. To this date, only two deaths from the virus have been recorded in the state.
A video captured in late March outside Plateau State’s capitol shows a large crowd of Fulani chanting, “The Mallam [cleric] said there is no corona; we also say there is no corona.” Accordingly, Fulani violence has continued unabated. On May 3, Fulani militants ambushed four members of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in Plateau State, killing all of them. On May 5, Anglican Rev. Canon Bayo James Famonure, his wife, and his two sons were shot by Fulani in their own home. Miraculously, they all survived, even though the reverend was shot in the head.
“If you look at this,” Ibrahim said, “you know the situation is not improving.” He noted that three churches in Plateau State were recently burned to the ground.
The Times’ disregard for the persecution of Christians is nothing new. In fact, when the paper covered the violence by the Fulani in northern Nigeria in 2018, they described the situation as “farmers and herdsmen vying for land, leading to bloody battles.” That is, the Times sees the conflict between the Fulani Muslims and the Christians as one where fault lies on both sides. Further, the Times claims the conflict is only “exacerbated” by religion.
The violence by the Fulani, however, is really a jihad by radical Islamic terrorists set on killing and driving out Christians.
“It’s founded on attacks and killing, it’s founded on jihad. They want a jihad in Nigeria. All of these attacks are religiously motivated,” said Ibrahim.
The jihad in northern Nigeria today has its roots in the conquests of Shehu Usuman Dan Fodio, whose caliphate stretched across northern Nigeria and neighboring countries from 1802 to 1812. The caliphate was ruled by his descendants until the territory was conquered by the British in 1905. Northern Nigeria was later subsumed into the largely Christian southern Nigeria in 1960. Today, there is Sharia law in northern Nigeria and many northern Nigerian Muslims continue to see Dan Fodio’s jihad as an ideal to replicate.
The Christian pastors in Nigeria, however, generally preach nonviolent resistance, according to Crux Editor-in-Chief John L. Allen Jr.
Ibrahim follows this path. “Those who use the sword will die by the sword,” the bishop said, quoting the Gospel of Matthew. “We prohibit people to carry arms to fight Boko Haram or to fight Fulani herdsmen. But we try to help them in defense.”
The New York Times is not alone in its position that fault for the violence lies with both Muslims and Christians. The president of Nigeria, Muhammad Buhari, himself an ethnic Fulani, has also pushed the narrative of a two-sided conflict, and claimed that climate change is contributing to the bloodshed.
“It is not true,” Ibrahim said of Buhari’s claims. “The Christians are the affected ones. It is all perpetrated by Muslims. I am not saying it is all Muslims, but I am saying it is all perpetrated by Muslims.”
The force of the violence against Christians in northern Nigeria is terrifying. In just three years between June 2015 and June 2018, at least 1,000 churches in Nigeria were set ablaze. In January and February of this year alone, at least 350 Christians were murdered. This January, four first-year seminarians were kidnapped from Good Shepherd Catholic Major Seminary in Kaduna State. One seminarian, Michael Nnadi, who was just 18 years old, was killed.
Worse, the government of Nigeria makes only half-hearted attempts to stop the violence by the Fulani. Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, the former Catholic archbishop of Lagos, published an open letter denouncing this failure and calling on President Buhari to resign.
While the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and CNN have all described the situation in northern Nigeria as a two-sided conflict between Christian farmers and Muslim Fulani herdsmen, the Wall Street Journal had the guts to describe the situation as a “massacre” and a “war against Christians” by Islamic extremists.
Bernard-Henri Lévy, who traveled to northern Nigeria late last year, wrote for the Wall Street Journal, “As my trip concludes, I have the terrible feeling of being carried back to Rwanda in the 1990s, to Darfur and South Sudan in the 2000s.”
The violence in Nigeria is nothing less than a slaughter of Christians. When the Western media ignores the crisis or portrays it as a mutual conflict over grazing land, they remain complicit in the massacre.
“We pray that God will uplift our country,” said Ibrahim. “We will keep praying that it will stop.”