Nigeria has witnessed the bloodiest year of Islamist attacks against Christians in 2023, with more than 8,000 killed, according to a new report by the Catholic-inspired NGO, the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety).

The report published Feb. 14 – which was Ash Wednesday – gives harrowing details of killings, kidnappings, and forced disappearances of largely Christian populations in several parts of Nigeria.

“The combined forces of the Government protected Islamic Jihadists and the country’s Security Forces (NSFc) are directly and vicariously accountable for hacking to death in 2023 of no fewer than 8,222 defenseless Christians – covering a period of 13 months or Jan (2023) -Jan (2024),” said the report, signed among others by the Director of Intersociety, Emeka Umeaglalasi.

The killings, according to the report, were carried out by a broad range of actors, including Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen who were responsible for at least 5,100 Christian deaths, Boko Haram and their allies with 500 deaths, Jihadist Fulani Bandits with 1,600 deaths and “Islamic-inspired” security forces with 1000 Christian deaths.

It said the January 2023 to January 2024 killings marked “the deadliest in recent years,” and blamed the woeful failure of the Nigerian government and the security forces for failing to “rise to the occasion.”

But the killings over the past year are part of a long-standing war against Christians, dating back to 2009 when Boko Haram started its murderous campaign in Africa’s most populous nation.

“Nigeria has become the second deadliest Genocide-Country in the world accounting for more than 150,000 religiously motivated defenseless civilian deaths since 2009,” the report states.

It says about 100,000 Christians were among the 150,000 killed while moderate Muslims accounted for about 46,000, and members of other religions accounted for the remaining 4,000 defenseless civilian deaths.

The report says the death toll in Nigeria is surpassed only by the numbers in Syria, which has been embroiled in a devastating civil war since 2011 with civilian deaths of 306,000 out of about 21.5 million citizens.

According to the report, the systematic murder of Christians in Nigeria amounts to “a silent genocide,” highlighting the absence of media coverage and the indifference of the global community.

The report also states that the killings and the related horrific and atrocious violence against people or groups and their properties based on ethnic and religious factors resulted in the destruction of tens of thousands of homes of civilians, more than 18,500 Christian places of worship, 1000 religious shrines and 2,500 Christian/Traditional education centers. During the same period, over 59,000 square kilometers of land that belonged to native Christians and non-Muslims were taken over and their inhabitants displaced and expelled.

The report cites both national and international sources to state that the Boko Haram group and its affiliates were responsible for the kidnapping and disappearance of at least 22,500 mostly unarmed Christians between 2009 and 2014, during which time they also recklessly demolished or set fire to 13,000 churches and 1,500 Christian schools, and compelled over 1.3 million others to leave to avoid being killed or coerced into Islam.

“Between 2016 and 2023; a period of eight years, more than 30,000 defenseless civilians were abducted by Islamic Jihadists and, some say, “Islamic-inspired” security forces in Nigeria,” the report states.

According to the International Alliance against Genocide, Nigeria is listed among fourteen ongoing genocides in the world.

Umeagbalasi told Crux that the Muhammadu Buhari government (2015-2023) and even the Bola Tinubu government – which went into office in 2023 – as well as the Nigerian security forces have been complicit in the killing of Christians in Nigeria.

“This government is not different from the Buhari government,” he said.

The report makes the point even more forcefully.

“The most shocking of it all is that the Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen operate freely and unchallenged with impunity and reckless abandon; with the Nigerian Security Forces (NSFs), widely accused of being ‘Islamic-inspired,’ turning blind eyes or looking the other side; except when it comes to protection of Fulani cows and their herders; or arresting members of the victim communities and their leaders; labeling them “bandits,” the report says.

Emeka said there is a “silent genocide” going on in Nigeria.

“If you look at the definition of genocide, then you find out that genocide is already going on in Nigeria: Anti-Christian genocide,” he told Crux.