Sultan Muhammadu Sa'ad Abubakar greets U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Nigeria in August 2016. Kerry met religious leaders and delivered a speech about countering violent extremism. (Photo: U.S. State Department)
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) called on church members and Nigerians around the world to observe Sunday, Jan. 8, as a day of mourning for the killings of hundreds of Christians in the Kaduna area.
The "church in Nigeria since 2009 has been subjected to a systemic genocide and persecution through the instrumentality of Islamic fundamentalists Boko Haram, leading to the killing of thousands of Christians and destruction of hundreds of churches and over 50,000 houses," said CAN, the largest ecumenical Christian body in Nigeria.
The statement added, "The current unprecedented onslaught against Christians in southern Kaduna by the Islamic fundamentalists disguising as the Fulani herdsmen under the watch of Kaduna state governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, and President Muhammadu Buhari has reached an alarming stage."
Samson Ayokunle, the organization's president, and Musa Asake, its general secretary, released the statement. Ayokunle is president of the Nigerian Baptist Convention. Asake is a member of the Evangelical Church of West Africa.
The Vicar General of the Catholic Archdiocese of Kafanchan, Ibrahim Yakubu, reported that more than 800 people were killed and more than 1,422 homes were destroyed.
"The level of barbarity was such that pregnant women got their wombs blown out and massacred before their children. And these innocent children were not spared either," he said.
Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, distanced himself from the call to a day of national prayer.
The Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar III, condemned the killings and called on the country's president and the governor of Kaduna to find a solution to the attacks. Abubakar is Nigeria's leading Islamic head.
"Why must CAN's handling of every crisis be clouded in religious profiling? It is high time we started to see our leaders as Nigerians and not as belonging to any particular tribe or faith. Criminals also must be seen from the point of view of their actions and not necessarily associated with their religion or ethnic group," read a statement from the Muslim Rights Concern, which condemned the killings.
A Nigerian pastor called Christians to boycott cattle meat to protest the Fulani herdsmen, who are often accused of killings of Christians.
"Christianity in Nigeria today is under siege, not only from Islamic fundamentalists and bloody genocidal actions of Boko Haram, but also from evil moves such as the Cattle Grazing Reserve Bill, and from the marauding activities of Fulani terrorists masquerading as cattle breeders," pastor Dele Ikeorha said.
Nigeria's president, Muhammadu Buhari, gave security forces instructions to investigate the violence and bring it to an end.
EthicsDaily.com's documentary, "The Disturbances," records what missionaries and Nigerian pastors did during a time of tribal genocide in 1966 in Nigeria.