Abuja, 06 May, 2023 / 9:10 pm (ACI Africa).
Advocates for persecuted Christians in Nigeria are criticizing a new report prepared by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) that they say ignores the many documented atrocities perpetrated against Christians by the Fulani ethnic group in Nigeria and instead paints the Fulani as persecuted victims.
The April 27 report prepared by USCIRF — a nonpartisan federal body — asserts that Fulani civilians have been subjected to “xenophobic sentiment” because “Christian communities often equate Fulani Muslims with Salafi jihadist beliefs because of their Muslim identity.” The report goes on to say that “abuses have led some members of Fulani communities to arm themselves and conduct reprisal attacks based on ethnoreligious identity,” with the result being that “Christian communities across Nigeria are threatened by deadly attacks from vengeful assailants seeking retribution for grievances against Fulani Muslim civilians.”
The Fulani are an ethnic group that occupies a large area of the African continent stretching from Senegal to Sudan. They are nomadic and largely share a language, Muslim faith, and a history of livestock herding. Jihadist Muslim groups, such as Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) have claimed responsibility for numerous deadly attacks on the country’s Christians. But myriad other attacks attributed to Fulani herdsmen on Christians in Nigeria, especially in the north of the country, have been reported in recent years. The current president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, is of Fulani ancestry, and there is widespread evidence that Fulanis have been largely able to carry out their attacks with impunity.
Advocates for persecuted Christians strongly disagreed with the USCIRF report’s assertion that the numerous attacks attributed to the Fulani in recent years on Christians in the country are retaliatory.
Sean Nelson, legal counsel for the U.S.-based Alliance Defending Freedom, told CNA that the USCIRF report “fails to explain the broader context of religiously motivated violence against Christians, where they are suffering thousands of deaths every year because of their faith.”