There is good and bad news on the Plateau today.
The bad news is the death toll, and the fear of reprisals. I have heard of at least 47 people dead, with more missing, and many injured. Though I have seen pictures from there I will not post them here. A sister of my friend Bilkisu was one of the ones killed, so it has struck very close to home.
In our partner village (a hamlet, really) there are about 50 people who have fled from their homes and taken refuge there, and more are expected. They do not have room to host so many, so they have shuttled some off to a larger near-by village (at this point I do not wish to print the names of the places).
Part of the good news is that a sort of calm has settled over the Plateau, but the fear is, now, that there will be reprisals made by the Fulbe against their aggressors. Of course, just who the aggressors are remains a point of contention, with various folks arguing from different perspectives.
What is clear is that this was a tribal matter (not a religious one), primarily involving farmers and cattle grazers. Generally speaking, the Fulbe tend to be the cattle grazers, while the Mambilla people are farmers. Both Muslims and Christians (“so-called,” as my friends put it) were involved in the attacks. If you are very ambitious, and wish to get a better grip on why all of this is happening, you may turn to these articles – just three of many out there trying to explain the present situation: The Fulani Crisis: Communal Violence and Radicalization in the Sahel, Making Sense of Nigeria’s Fulani-Farmer Conflict, Why Fulani Herdsmen and Farmers Fight: How Climate Change and Boko Haram Created a Crisis.
Essentially, the problem is one of long-standing origin, and has to do with the traditional Fulbe having to graze their cattle farther south than they have usually done in the past few decades. this southern migration has been exacerbated in recent years by the presence of the Boko Haram in the north making it unsafe there for Fulbe people also.
This migration south means they have encroached on farmers’ lands, and many of the peoples they are coming into contact with – including, and especially, the Mambilla – have a violent history with the Fulbe, so there is bad blood between them already. Locally, there are some politics and politicians involved as well, but their role in all this is murky to me (I have heard bits of stories, but they are not really clear to me).
The great bit of good news is the number of people praying for the Plateau right now. There are a lot of practical things to be done (the government needs to step up; food needs to be bought; cooler heads need to prevail; and so on), but prayer to God is an ultimately practical discipline, requiring focus and attention.
One of the major elements in our support raising is to bring on board people who have pledged to pray for us and the ministry we are involved in. I consider this aspect of our support to be absolutely crucial to any success we might see on our mission. Thanks so much to all off you ho have committed yourself to this vital ministry – and thanks so much for your prayer for the Plateau right now.
I will reprint here what I said in my prayer post of a few days ago, since it is still relevant:
Please pray for safety for our Christian brothers and sisters (cf. 2 Thess 3.2); pray that the government will intervene in such a way as to de-escalate the violence and bring peace to the area (even an enforced peace at this point [cf. Rom 13.4)); pray that no Christians return evil for evil, but that they will return good for evil (cf. Rom 17-21); pray that the Christian leaders will speak with the words of Christ (cf. 1 Pet 4.11).
Thanks so much for your prayers.