ANGWAN MALLAM CHUNG, Nigeria, November 9, 2016 (Morning Star News) –

Sunday Maidawa, a Christian in this town in southern Kaduna state, feels the loss of his brother and sister-in-law daily in the four children left to him.

Muslim Fulani herdsmen two years ago killed his brother, 34-year-old Dauda Maidawa, and kidnapped the slain Christian’s wife. Their children, ages 5 to 16, still hope to see their mother one day.

“It has been very tough for me taking care of these children in addition to mine, but I thank God for His sustainable grace,” the 46-year-old Maidawa said. “Our concern at the moment is the fate of their mother, Grace; is she still alive, or killed and buried by the herdsmen? We do not know.”

The captors have not made contact with the family since the kidnapping, Maidawa said.

“However, we have not lost hope about her, as we believe that if she’s still alive, one day God through his mercies can make it possible for her rescue,” he said.

Grace Alheri Dauda was 30 years old when a group of Fulani herdsmen kidnapped her from the farm where she and her husband were working the morning of June 21, 2014, said Maidawa, a member of the Evangelical Reformed Church of Christ (ERCC) Angwan Mallam Chung, in the Sanga Local Government Area

“Some other Christians from our neighboring village of Angwan Boka, who heard the shootings by the herdsmen and rushed to my brother’s farm, found that he was murdered and his corpse was left there on the farm,” Maidawa said. “Our neighbors alerted us about the attack, and we quickly mobilized ourselves and went on the trail of the herdsmen. Sadly, we were not able to rescue Grace as the herdsmen were well armed with deadly weapons.”

They reported the attack to police, but officers and soldiers were unable to locate her. They recovered Dauda Maidawa’s body and continued the search the next day, a Sunday.

“No worship service was held in the village church that day, as members of the church, our pastor and some Christians from our neighboring village, accompanied us to search all farms and bushes stretching over a 50-kilometer radius, but without the trace of Grace or her captors,” Maidawa said.

The search extended to Riyom and Rim towns in Plateau state, where herdsmen had carried out similar attacks. Soldiers and police accompanied them on the search for seven days, all to no avail, he said. Dauda Maidawa was buried on June 27, 2014.

Their 16-year-old child is a high school student, and the others, ages 5, 7 and 10, are in primary school.

The Rev. Emmanuel Yahaya, pastor of the couple’s ERCC congregation, told Morning Star News that they were active in the church.

“Dauda was the leader of a fellowship group known as Alheri Fellowship in my church. His wife, Grace was a deaconess and a member of the Women’s Fellowship Group of our church,” Yahaya said. “The death of her husband and her abduction is a painful experience for us all in our church.”

He added that they were a couple “graced in humility and burning with the desire to serve God.”

Yahaya and Maidawa appealed to the Nigerian government to place priority on the search and rescue of Grace Dauda from her captors in the same way that it has concentrated on rescuing the 276 girls that Boko Haram Islamists kidnapped from a high school in Chibok, Borno state in April 2014. The Nigerian government last month negotiated the release of 21 of the girls.

At least 50 of the girls escaped in the initial abduction in April 2014, leaving 219 that were captured. One of the girls, Amina Ali, was rescued in May. Reuters reported that she told her mother the girls were starved, and that some had died in captivity, suffered broken legs or gone deaf after being too close to explosions.

Amnesty International reports that about 2,000 girls and boys have been kidnapped by Boko Haram since the beginning of 2014 and used as cooks, sex slaves, fighters and suicide bombers. Boko Haram controlled large swathes of land in northeast Nigeria at the start of 2015, but Nigerian and regional troops have largely displaced them. Boko Haram last year pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed more than 40 Christians in an attack on Godogodo, Kaduna state on Oct. 15 and left another eight dead in an assault three weeks earlier, area leaders said. Besides the eight slain on Sept. 24-26 in Godogodo, a predominantly Christian community in Kaduna state, the Muslim Fulani herdsmen also wounded eight Christians by gunshot and machete cuts, the leaders said.

Kaduna and Plateau states have been plagued by such Muslim Fulani attacks for years, with Fulani leaders making unsubstantiated claims of cattle rustling by youths among the predominantly Christian farmers as the pretext for the killings. In recent years there are signs that Islamic extremist groups are arming and/or accompanying Muslim Fulani herdsmen and inciting them in their tribal and economic conflicts with Christian farmers. The assaults on unarmed Christians have reached central-eastern states such as Taraba and Benue, as well as more southern areas.

Church leaders say attacks on Christian communities by the herdsmen constitute a war “by Islam to eliminate Christianity” in Nigeria. Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population of 158.2 million and live mainly in the south, while Muslims account for 45 percent and live mainly in the north.

Morning Star News