On Easter weekend Christians the world over prayed; some went to church; some watched reenactments of the crucifixion. In the killing fields of Nigeria’s Plateau State, some were murdered for their faith.
So ended the life of Rev. Ibrahim Isah, 59, whose victorious life and martyrdom were honored at a funeral on Saturday, April 16, in Kpachudu (pa-CHU-du). It was a small village where Isah cared for his wife, his four children, 42 head of cattle, and a loyal following of Fulani Christians.
Among the Fulani ethnicity, one of the largest in Africa, Isah was a rarity—a Christian convert in a tribe well-known for its pride in Islam. Like millions of other Fulani Nigerians, he herded cattle and did some farming in the village, one of a bevy of villages around the town of Miango, 25 miles northwest of Jos. Isah’s passion was teaching the Bible and saving souls within his Fulani community, a passion that called him to evangelize in neighboring Niger Republic, Chad, Mali, and Cameroon. He refused to leave his mission post, a conference center on the same ground as his farmhouse, even after hundreds of Fulani terrorists burned houses, including his, and murdered more than 70 of his neighbors in 2021. He insisted thereafter that his wife and children shelter in Jos, while he created a bedroom in his office.
In the tension-ridden neighborhoods north of Jos where Fulani Muslims and Christian farmers live side by side, Rev. Ibrahim Isah was the nail that stuck out. On April 16, terrorists hammered him down.
“I spoke to my husband by cell around 7:20 a.m. on that Saturday and told him to ‘Be very careful,’” said Mrs. Laraba Ibrahim Isah to Providence. “But 10 minutes later, he was gone.”
“The extremist Fulani jihadists will not forgive us,” she added. “Especially because they’re aware that my husband traveled to Chad, Cameroon, and Niger Republic evangelizing Muslim Fulani who attended the annual international Christian Fulani conference at Kpachudu.”
“Our house was burned by Fulani in August 2021. So, I live in Jos with my children, while my husband stayed at the remains in Kpachudu. I prepared Easter soup for him and traveled to the village on Thursday, April 14,” she said. “I had to return to Jos after he insisted. I called him on Saturday morning on phone, and he told me he had led the community youth at the church secretary’s house. I remember telling him to be careful out there, and he said he would.”
Mrs. Ibrahim spoke to Providence from a hidden location since her husband’s killers had threatened her. “The terrorists took Mr. Ibrahim’s cell phone and called me a few days later, promising to kill me and all the children at the soonest they could,” Ms. Ibrahim said. “Our offense against the Fulanis is simply our choice to be Christians.”
But the Ibrahim family was just one of several attacked across the Middle Belt on Easter weekend. “Eight Christians were kidnapped by Fulani militants on Good Friday in Jos, Plateau State,” according to International Christian Concern.
The kidnappers released four after receiving a $2,000 ransom. One woman among the four told an ICC staffer that two leaders of the Fulani militants raped her several times. “The militant told us, after receiving the ransom money, that they got money to kill more Christians,” she said. Fulani terrorists attacked the Christian-majority town of Kagoro in neighboring Kaduna state on April 16, according to Rev. Sunday Bwanhot, the national leader of Ecumenical Church Winning All (ECWA) in the United States, who was visiting the town. Strafing fire from a Nigerian Air Force jet killed one of the town’s civilian guards who was defending the village from the onslaught.
Isah had suffered attacks by terrorists in the weeks leading up to the murder. “Forty-two of my cows were stolen by the Fulani Muslims,” he said in a taped video interview in Jebu Miango. “And they have attacked us multiple times just to stop the Gospel from spreading,” he added.
According to Mrs. Ibrahim, her husband worked as a volunteer missionary amongst his fellow Fulani tribesmen across Nigeria. He had his theological training with ECWA in Zabolo, where he met Canadian missionary Linda Clason in 1988, according to Mrs. Ibrahim.
Ibrahim’s widow has not sought help from police in Jos because she doubts that police would help.
“I’ve not seen sincere demonstration on the side of the security to apprehend killers of innocent people, so I doubt the security can guarantee the safety of my family,” she said. “If the police want to, they will arrest the killers, because my husband’s phone number is linked with his national identification number as instructed by the federal government.”
Rev. Isah is among tens of thousands of Christians killed by extremist Fulani in the Middle Belt Nigeria during the last 10 years. During this period more than 380 villages in the Middle Belt have been razed and cleared by marauding terrorists, according to Nigerian subject experts.
“The attacks have continued unabated in the lands of Plateau State inhabited by the Irigwe tribe for 12 years,” Mrs. Isah said. “More than 12,786 residential houses were razed by terrorists at the end of 2021, which account for 64 percent of the total houses destroyed that year,” she said, citing Gasto Barri, chairman of Relief and Intervention Committee of the Irigwe Development Association (IDA). In addition, over 728 food barns were burned down, and not less than 2,000 farms were destroyed by Fulani militiamen in 2021 alone, Mrs. Isah told Providence.
Rev. Sunday Dodo, the lead pastor of Evangelical Church Winning All Kpachudu, eulogized Rev. Ibrahim on April 16, pointing out that Rev. Isah’s martyrdom is part of a pattern of attacks in Plateau and the neighboring state of Kaduna. “The recent mode of operation of Fulani attacks in Irigwe Land was the same as reported in Southern Kaduna where gunmen used military uniforms, motorcycles, heavy weapons, and machete killings of both pregnant women and children alike,” Dodo said.
While confirming the similarity of the gunmen’s pattern of operation, the Hon. Jonathan Asake, leader of Southern Kaduna People’s Union (SOKAPU), said during a phone interview that areas of Southern Kaduna share boundaries with Bassa and Riyom local government areas of Northern Plateau State. “These lands are the epicenter of the attacks where sometimes the mayhem goes on for three to six hours before security intervenes.”
“From 2015 to 2022, at least 145 communities have been displaced by attacks. Not less than 200,000 people have been displaced across Southern Kaduna,” Asake said.
The International Committee on Nigeria has called the murder of defenseless Christian farmers throughout this region a “silent slaughter,” due to the underreporting of atrocities by Western media.
Douglas Burton in Washington contributed to this report.