Living in a Violent State

Sep 1, 2022 | VoM

Moses Joseph grew up in a Christian family that attended church every Sunday and read daily devotions together in their home in southern Kaduna State, Nigeria.

Although the region has been plagued by attacks from Fulani Islamic militants, 17-year-old Moses had never been greatly concerned about the violence.

“I never thought I would experience persecution,” he said. “I never thought I would lose anyone to persecution.”

But one Saturday morning in April 2021, Moses’ father left for his farm and never returned home. When villagers searched for him the next day, they discovered his body in the field where he grew corn, peanuts and other crops. He had been slashed on the back with a machete and shot once in the head.

“No one saw who killed my father,” Moses said, “but I believe it was Muslim Fulani herdsmen because they had just attacked our community a few days before he was killed.” Moses said his father’s killing fitted the militants’ recent pattern of kidnapping and killing people on their farms.


Millions of Fulani live in Nigeria and neighbouring countries. While many are peaceful, some — especially in Nigeria — are militant Muslims. Like other Islamist groups in the region, they target Christians and churches, often stealing land from Christians to use for their own cattle. And they try to impose Islam on any Christians who don’t leave.

Killings like that of Moses’ father have occurred with increasing frequency in southern Kaduna State. Tensions between Muslims and Christians increased in 2011, when a government leader called for the implementation of Sharia, or Islamic law, in the state’s predominantly Muslim areas. Militant Islamic Fulani have been targeting and killing Christians in the region since late 2016. In early 2017, government officials labelled the ongoing attacks the “Southern Kaduna Crisis”.

Five years later, the crisis continues. Just as the terrorist group Boko Haram targets Christians throughout north-eastern Nigeria, Fulani Islamic militants are working to eradicate Christians from the southern part of Kaduna State. They have killed thousands of believers, raped hundreds of women, abducted countless others and burned many homes and churches.

These widows and children have been living in a church building in Zangon Kataf, Kaduna State, since an attack on villages that are home to 6,000 people.

The attacks have continued in 2022. While no official statistics are yet available, the government is reporting a higher-than-normal number of murders, rapes and kidnappings compared with previous years. In addition, hundreds have been displaced, and more than 100 homes have been burned.

Moses is traumatised by news of these ongoing attacks, and he is filled with fear when he sees Fulani men. But he has learned to take his worries to God. Recently, he has even started to pray for those who killed his father. “I lost my father,” Moses said, “but I hold no grudge against the Muslim Fulani men who did this. I have left everything in the hands of God.”


In another part of southern Kaduna State, Justina and her 2-year-old son are also mourning the loss of a loved one killed by Fulani Islamic militants. On the afternoon of 5 February 2022, Justina’s husband, Nehemiah, and one of his friends hopped on a motorbike and rode to a nearby village without telling her where they were going or what they were doing.

Around 1am the next day, Justina was awakened by a knock at the door. When she opened her door, a neighbour told her that the body of her husband’s friend had been found next to a burning motorcycle. There was no sign of Nehemiah.

Justina and others feared the men had been attacked by militant Islamic Fulani who had recently raided nearby villages, but Justina hoped that Nehemiah had somehow escaped. Later that morning, however, some men from the neighbouring village brought her his body. “I felt like dying,” Justina recalled.

Neighbours took care of Justina’s son while she buried her husband that same day. She later learned that Nehemiah had gone to the nearby village to baptise some new believers who were part of their church.

Fearing an attack on her village by Fulani Islamic militants, Justina was unable to sleep in her own home. She and her son stayed with her mother-in-law until recently moving back into their own house. “I won’t say my fears are gone completely,” she said.

Justina’s fear continues to be mixed with grief. She struggles daily with the pain of her loss, often breaking down in tears when she talks about Nehemiah. “Losing my husband was the hardest thing,” she said, “but God has given me the strength to bear the loss and to keep moving.”

Justina lost her husband, Nehemiah, in an attack by Fulani Islamic militants just 10 days before she spoke with front-line workers.


Justina still raises crops on the land her husband farmed about an hour’s walk from her home, but she is careful to avoid potential danger. “When I hear that Fulani men are in the area, I stay at home,” she said. “I have never encountered them on the farm.”

Despite losing her husband, who was killed because of his faithful obedience to Christ, Justina said she could never think of leaving Jesus. “He has done everything for me,” she said. “When I am sick, He heals me. When I pray, He answers. I see the evidence of all He does in my life. That is why I will not leave Him.”

Unable to read, Justina enjoys hearing God’s Word read aloud at church. She also continues to worship God as part of her church choir. “I will not stop singing,” she said. “When I serve God with all my heart, it makes Him happy.”

She asks that people pray not only for her and her son but for every Christian in southern Kaduna State. “I want them to pray about the constant attacks,” Justina said. “I want them to pray the attacks will stop.”

Front-line workers gave Justina an audio Bible so she can listen to God’s Word while at home and continue to grow in faith.


Front-line workers have helped numerous displaced Christians in southern Kaduna State, assisting them with skills training and helping provide housing, food, clothing and other necessities.

Moses Joseph recently lost his mother to a stomach illness. He and two younger siblings now receive care from their grandmother and two uncles, and VOM provides additional support.

Moses continues to grow in faith and rely more on God as he mourns the loss of his parents. “Persecution cannot stop me from going to church services and going about my regular church activities,” he said. “It will not stop me from telling anyone about Christ.”

Moses asks that people pray for his future and that he will continue to grow in faith. “Pray that I get to go back to school and get a good education,” he said. “I had to stop when I lost my parents.”

The Gospel of John has been a source of strength for Moses, as has singing in his church choir. He said a song called “Glory to God in Heaven” gives him special encouragement. “I will not stop being a member of the choir in my church even in the face of danger,” he said, “because I believe God will take care of me.”