". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Nigerian Nightmare: Christmas Eve Slaughter Kills and Wounds Hundreds

December 27, 2023

Like moms all around the world, Grace Godwin was cooking Christmas Eve dinner when life took a terrifying turn. Standing in her Nigerian kitchen, Grace’s husband ran into the room and shouted at her to take the children and run. Go to the bush, he ordered after alarm spread that gunmen were in a nearby town. Everyone in the central Plateau knows what happens to Christians. In the time that it took her to gather her three little ones, they started to hear the unmistakable sound: rifle shots. 

With preparations for a festive night scattered everywhere, Grace and her family fled.

All across the region, villages that should have been celebrating the holiday were surrounded by armed men, tortured, and burned. The attacks lasted for hours, killing as many as 160 and wounding hundreds of others. Markus Amorudu told reporters that his family was sleeping in Mushu when the sound of shots rang out. “We were scared,” he admitted, “because we weren’t expecting an attack.” “People hid,” he explained, “but the assailants captured many of us. Some were killed, others wounded.” 

Magit Macham, who left the safety of the state capital to spend Christmas with his family, was talking to his brother outside the house when everyone heard gunshots. Within minutes, Magit was dragging his brother, who’d been hit in the leg, to the bush, where they hid for the night. “Those that could run ran,” he said. But “a good number of those that couldn’t were caught and killed with machetes.” 

With eerie echoes of Hamas, terrorists slashed their way through as many as 20 villages, setting fire to everything in their path. The attack lasted for hours, survivors remembered. “We returned at six the next morning” — Christmas Day — “and found that houses had been burnt and people killed,” Grace lamented. “There are still people missing.” Even now, she said quietly, “There is no one in Mayanga. Women and children have all fled.”

The Fulani herdsman, along with the Muslim terrorist group Boko Haram, have been carrying out a bloody vendetta against Nigerian Christians for years. During this massacre, as in most, they took particular pleasure targeting church leaders. “Some pastors were killed, and another pastor and his wife and five children were killed during these attacks,” Dawzino Mallau told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News by text. “These terrorists who attacked these Christian communities were in the hundreds, and they carried out the attacks as the hapless Christians were preparing for Christmas programs lined up by their pastors.”

When they couldn’t take lives, they destroyed homes — reducing “hundreds of houses” to ash. Worse, locals said it took “more than 12 hours before security agencies responded to their call for help.” Women, children, and the elderly were systematically slaughtered while the government sat on its hands, a revelation Family Research Council’s Arielle Del Turco found “deeply disturbing.”

“At best, this points to a grave and costly incompetence,” she told The Washington Stand. “At worst, it reveals that Nigerian authorities do not want to stop these attacks against vulnerable Christians and may be complicit in them. Either way, the Nigerian government must urgently institute changes to save innocent lives.”

Now, instead of celebrating Christ’s birth, Nigerians are burying their dead.

“This is unacceptable,” Plateau Governor Caleb Mutfwang insisted. “Enough is enough. These stupid, senseless, and unprovoked acts must stop,” he said before demanding more security measures. “… As I am talking to you, in Mangu local [district] alone, we buried 15 people. As of this morning, in Bokkos, we are counting not less than 100 corpses. I am yet to take stock of [the deaths in] Barkin Ladi. It has been a very terrifying Christmas for us here in Plateau.”

Living in fear has become a way of life for the country’s Christians, who’ve endure these waves of cold-blooded killings with shocking frequency since 2009. Now, even the simple act of going to church or gathering for Christmas can be a death sentence. 

“More innocent Christians are killed in Nigeria each year than anywhere else in the world,” Del Turco told TWS. According to Open Doors’ 2023 report, 5,014 were brutally murdered in 2022 alone. “This is a shameful distinction that the Nigerian government must immediately address,” she urged. 

With the nightmarish attacks of October 7 still fresh in everyone’s minds, this barbarism — some 3,500 miles from Israel — is another sad reminder of the persecution God’s people face in most corners of the world. But it’s also a powerful witness to Christians in the West, who’ve only experienced a taste of the hostility our brothers and sisters endure around the world. While we take our most basic freedoms for granted, believers from Afghanistan to China have no peace — not even on Christmas.

They’ve seen the deadly explosions rock their churches, they’ve cried at the funerals of loved ones gunned down during worship. They’ve lost their homes, buried their children, and looked martyrdom in the eye. And still, they are not deterred. Risking everything for Christ is a way of life.

But that doesn’t make the losses less painful. In Nigeria, where the situation for Christians is growing more treacherous by the day, we grieve for the hundreds of families whose Christmases will never be the same. 

In the meantime, Del Turco reminds the church, we are not helpless. “We can pray for the comfort and peace for those who are mourning,” she offered, “that justice will be done in this situation, and the hearts of Nigerian leaders will be moved to stop the slaughter of Christians.” And thank God for the freedom to do so.

Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.