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Nigerian Christian woman murdered by suspected Fulani herders while cleaning her church

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AFP via Getty Images/KOLA SULAIMON

ABUJANigeria — Suspected Fulani herdsmen in Plateau state, Nigeria, shot and killed a Christian woman as she cleaned her church, sources said.

Lyop Dalyop was sweeping and cleaning the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) building in Bangai village, Riyom County, when she was ambushed by “armed men suspected to be Fulani militias,” said an attorney who serves as the director of Emancipation Centre for Crisis Victims in Nigeria.

“The incident occurred at about 8:05 p.m., shortly after she had gone to sweep the COCIN Church, Bangai, in preparation for Sunday morning worship service,” Dalyop Solomon Mwantiri told Morning Star News in a text message. “The armed Fulani men shot her in the head.”

In June suspected Fulani herdsmen shot and killed a Christian and wounded two others in Chaha village, Jos South County, he said. The Fulani attacked the village in Vwang District shortly after 8:30 p.m. on June 4.

Stephen Gyang, 24, was shot dead, while two other Christians, Isaac Gyang and the Rev. Davou Ishaya John of the COCIN sustained injuries and were receiving hospital treatment, Mwantiri said. Isaac Gyang’s injuries reportedly left him in critical condition at Jos University Teaching Hospital.

The Fulani attacked the pastor and Isaac Gyang as they returned from a church program, and when Gyang’s brother, Stephen Gyang, tried to take them to a hospital, he was shot dead, Mwantiri said.

In southern Plateau state, attacks have forced COCIN to withdraw six of its workers from the area, said the Rev. Moses Gonam, coordinator of the COCIN Community Mission (CCM). COCIN withdrew the workers from Kyamsangi, Kanam County, due to the growing insecurity in the area, which has displaced many Christians, Pastor Gonam said.

He said most of the church’s workers in northern Nigeria are facing dangers and persecution.

“The dexterity of our missionaries and their zeal to serve in spite of the challenge of insecurity has continued to sustain our missions efforts; if not, we would have closed down some of our mission fields,” Pastor Gonam said.

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's most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria jumped to seventh place, its highest ranking ever, from No. 9 the previous year.

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