Church regrets “genocide” against Christians in Nigeria

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Church representatives in Nigeria have expressed concern that Christians in their country are victims of a process of ethnic cleansing.

Photo: catholicstarnews.cdmakurdi.org

Newsroom (09/10/2021 11:00, Gaudium Press) Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. There are no official figures, but estimates suggest an even split between Muslims and Christians, with the former dominating the north and the latter the south. However, violence has now spread across the country and threatens the stability of the nation.

During a webinar (online conference) organised by Aid to the Church in Need International (ACN), several speakers, including a bishop and some priests from Nigeria, confirmed that the violence that has plagued the country for several years is not only due to “clashes” between Muslim herdsmen and Christian farmers.

“It is not just about herding problems. For me, it is a religious war,” declared Bishop Wilfred Anagbe of the Makurdi diocese.

“They have an agenda which is the Islamisation of this country. And they do that by carefully eliminating all Christians and occupying their land. If it was about grazing, why would people be killed? And why are their houses burnt down?” the bishop asks.

Sponsored by the government

Johan Viljoen, director of South Africa’s Denis Hurley Peace Institute, which promotes peace, democracy and justice, speaks of a “coordinated and well-planned occupation”. “All this is happening with the cover of ‘Miyetti Allah’ (Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria), sponsored by President Buhari,” he said, referring to this organisation that claims to defend the rights of Fulani herdsmen.

The heavy involvement of the government is one of the reasons why the military is unwilling to intervene and contain the violence. “I don’t think the army is trying to solve it. At the very least, they are promoting it,” Viljoen said.

Msgr. Wilfred emphasised that all the armed forces are under the direct control of the president and that “all the heads of the navy, army, air force and police are Muslim”.

Official figures put the death toll at 3,000 from this wave of violence in recent years, but those in the field say the death toll could be as high as 36,000. In addition, there are many more people who have had to move, either completely impoverished or deeply traumatised.

Since many non-governmental organisations have left the danger zones, the Catholic Church and its institutions, with which ACN International works closely, are the only ones who can bring aid to the local population.

Appeal to the West

Church representatives are asking people in the West to help. “We have to change the discourse, we cannot follow the narrative of the Nigerian government,” stressed Fr Remigius Ihyula, also from the Diocese of Makurdi. “They have put their followers in embassies all over the world so that the myth that nothing happens in Nigeria is kept alive,” he complained.

Fr Joseph Fidelis of Maiduguri Diocese clarified that it was inappropriate to talk of “clashes” or “conflicts” between opposing groups. “It is not clashes, it is a slow genocide. Expelling people from their homes, depriving them of their livelihood and massacring them is a form of genocide.”

With information CNA Deutsch.

 

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