Bishop Wilfred Anagbe of Nigeria has shared details of the worsening persecution of Christians in Nigeria, accusing members of the government in the country of being complicit in what he called a Christian “genocide” and an erasure of the Christian presence from Nigeria.
Bishop Anagbe, who leads the Makurdi Diocese in Nigeria, warned that if greater action is not taken he believes the Christian population, which currently numbers over 86 million, roughly half of the country’s total populace, could disappear entirely in the next few decades.
Though the Nigerian Christian population is massive, and widely known as having some of the most devoted faithful in the world, the bishop said the Christian presence in Nigeria is “gradually and systematically” being reduced by radical Islamists through “killings, kidnappings, torture, and burning of churches.”
In the last decade alone, since taking up the leadership of his diocese in the country’s central Benue state, Bishop Anagbe said that he has lost 160 churches because of attacks that he said are being perpetrated by radical members of a Muslim tribe known as the Fulani.
The bishop is in Washington, D.C., this week to bring attention to the crisis in Nigeria, and to also participate in the International Religious Freedom Summit, taking place January 30–31.
He gave his remarks on the morning of Tuesday, January 30, at a breakfast in the House Rayburn Office Building. The summit was organized by the papal relief group Aid to the Church in Need.
The bishop said that during his time as shepherd of Makurdi, he has had to, on many occasions, console his flock after an attack. Massacres such as the Good Friday attack in April 2023, which killed 43 Catholics in an elementary school, have become commonplace in his diocese, Anagbe said.
The Makurdi Diocese is not the only one suffering these attacks. As recently, in December 2023, more than 200 Nigerian Christians were killed in a series of Christmas attacks in the nearby state of Plateau from December 23–25.
As part of his presentation, Bishop Anagbe showed several gruesome images of brutally murdered women, men, babies, and children, many with their bodies torn apart or heads and limbs bearing the marks of machete blows, all martyred for their faith in God by the Fulani.
The situation is not any better for those who survive the attacks. About 3 million refugees, called internally displaced persons (IDPs), currently live in massive shanty camps throughout Nigeria. Without money or resources, unable to return to their destroyed homes for fear of being murdered, and with nowhere else to go, these millions of Christians live in the poorest conditions as refugees in their own country, the bishop said.
“When you go where they are in the camps, you don’t know what to preach. It’s difficult to console them, to support them, to share with them, to fear with them, and it’s every day other people are coming in,” Anagbe said, adding that the poor conditions make the children highly susceptible to human trafficking, child labor, and organ harvesting.
Though initially believing the government was merely participating “in a conspiracy of silence,” Bishop Anagbe said he now believes that the country’s government officials are “concretely supporting, aiding, and abetting the kidnappers and the killers.” This, according to the bishop, is evidenced by the fact that the government has not made a single arrest of any of the terrorists responsible for the many massacres.
The result, he said, is that “the demography of the diocese of the state is gradually shrinking.”
Is the persecution in Nigeria a Christian genocide?
Some Western politicians and media outlets assert that the crisis in Nigeria has been brought on by climate change, which they say is forcing nomadic Fulani herdsmen to fight with Christian farmers over scarce land. Bishop Wilfred Anagbe, however, condemned this narrative as “lies and propaganda.” He said that the Fulani terrorists are first and foremost motivated by the hatred of Christianity.
The bishop told a source that the attacks, which often kill hundreds at a time, are “targeted at Christian Indigenous groups in Nigeria” as “a way of eliminating this group of people who have the same faith from different places.” This, according to him, is the very definition of a religious genocide.
“I keep asking how many mosques have been attacked versus Catholic churches? How many pastors and reverend fathers have been kidnapped versus imams?”
“They’re doing this systematically,” Anagbe said. “When you eliminate people who are not confrontational to you, who didn’t provoke you, and there’s no war, it’s an agenda they have to do.”
The agenda, the bishop said, is the “extermination” of Christianity from Nigeria.