Dozens killed as worship hall is converted into mosque.
The attacks in Plateau state’s Mangu County by Fulani herders and other terrorists included an assault on one village that killed 24 Christians, said Plateau Baptist Conference President Koeleh Kelvin Saleh. The raids drove 500 church members from 10 towns and resulted in the closure of a Baptist church in each community, he said.
An attack by herders in Kantoma village on May 16 resulted in the slaughter of 24 members of Bethel Baptist Church, including Pastor Mangmwos Tangshak Daniel, while nine members of a Baptist church in Jwak Maitumbi village were killed, Pastor Saleh said.
“The sad thing is that we didn’t have a place to bury the corpses of our church members killed in the Kantoma attack, and so corpses were dumped in a mining pit,” he said.
Officials feared that burying so many mutilated bodies would lead to further security threats, so a church leader arranged for a mass burial in a neighboring area, he said.
“An understanding was brokered with the Mararaban Kantoma community, which is in another local government area, for these bodies to be buried there,” Pastor Saleh said. “Nobody was ready to release his land for such, and the bodies littered the ground from morning to evening, and so when they searched and found a mining pit, an agreement was brokered with the community to push the bodies into the mining pit.”
The burial of Pastor Daniel’s body was carried out separately afterward “so that it can be used as a contact from his family to other families who hadn’t the opportunity to give the Christian rites of burial to their relatives because they were just pushed into a mining pit,” he said.
“The mass burial was undertaken under tight security watch. It’s so pathetic that while the burial was ongoing, the Muslim Fulani herdsmen were shooting at Christians at the burial site,” he added. “The presence of police personnel who were at the burial site helped because they also fired warning shots, which halted the attacks from the herdsmen.”
The burial was completed hurriedly because of the herder’s shootings, Pastor Saleh said.
“The Christians there lost a lot; the church was destroyed, and there’s no single house standing in Kantoma—all houses of Christians have been destroyed,” he said. “It’s one of the communities where we had the most prominent Baptist church. The herders have taken control of the community’s ruins and are now using them to graze their cattle there.
He said the herders have also stolen windows and doors from destroyed homes.
“The situation in Kantoma is horrible. Christians who survived the attacks have nowhere to return to,” he said. Security officers had to accompany a few Christians who attempted to go back there to salvage anything they could find in their destroyed homes. And this they did hurriedly.”
Pastor Saleh and other Christian leaders visited the affected areas with security guards and found that Fulani herders had seized control of three Christian communities, he claimed.
“One of the church buildings that served as a worship hall for Christians has been converted into a mosque,” he said.
The attacks have created a serious humanitarian challenge to meet the needs of church members scattered across other areas.
He said the denomination has held emergency fund collections in churches for the displaced.
“We’ve had to do this because most of the victims escaped with nothing except their lives,” Pastor Saleh said. “Right now, we have about 75 families hosting the displaced members from the affected communities in their houses here in Jos. About 200 displaced people are being cared for.”