Jalingo, Nigeria, Aug 11, 2016 / 18:08 pm
Bishop Charles Hammawa heads the Diocese of Jalingo, located in the eastern part of the Nigeria's so-called “Middle Belt.” The population of 2.3 million is about equally divided between Muslims and Christians, 450,000 of whom are Catholic, with 10 percent of the people belonging to traditional religions.
The bishop expressed to the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need Aug. 9 his concern about what he labeled “suspiciously persistent” attacks by well-armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen on Christian farmers. He also dicussed the growing influx of Muslim settlers taking possession of land taken from these farmers.
ACN: Boko Haram appears to be curtailed, and there are fewer attacks by the group. However, you have reported another manifestation of Islamic extremism in the form of these attacks by Fulani herdsmen on Christian farmers.
Bishop Hammawa: That is my suspicion – that jihad is taking a new course. It looks like a problem between herdsmen and farmers. In the past, things would settle down after a clash. But I have seen cases of herdsmen not just letting their cattle graze but taking over the land – and Muslim from the north coming in to settle there. It appears to be a strategy to deliberately populate areas with Muslims and, by the sheer weight of superior numbers, influence political decision-making in the region. It is not the extreme violence of Boko Haram, but another way of capturing Nigeria for Islam. And this crisis has been sustained for the past three years in our region. It’s also suspicious that the herdsmen have access to sophisticated weaponry. There appears to be some financing of the Fulani aggression, which has left numerous dead, destroyed many communities and displaced thousands of people.