Issued by the Catholic Center for Studies and Media - Jordan. Editor-in-chief Fr. Rif'at Bader - موقع أبونا

Published on Friday, 18 November 2022
A harrowing report on religious persecution in Nigeria :

Most Rev Jude Arogundade, Catholic Bishop of Ondo, Nigeria, gave the following keynote address titled, 'The ongoing ethno/religious persecution in Nigeria - Scale the barriers of deafening silence' in the Houses of Parliament yesterday, at the launch of Aid to the Church in Need's latest report: Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians oppressed for their Faith 2020-2022.



1: On Pentecost Sunday, June 5, 2022, St Francis Catholic Church, Owo, joined the list of Churches in Nigeria that have been viciously attacked by terrorists whose bloody carnage has increased in the past years. This time, the attack took place in Southwestern Nigeria, a region far from the epicenter of the different terrorist groups operating in Northern Nigeria for many years. At the end of the bloodbath, forty-one worshippers were dead and seventy-three others seriously injured. The response from government and the law enforcement agencies were the usual assurance that they will get to the bottom of the matter and bring the culprits to justice. Like other attacks on Churches in Nigeria, no one has been charged for committing this crime, except that ISWAP has been identified and implicated for being responsible. Other terrorist Organizations that are operating and fighting the Nigeria Security Forces are Boko Haram, bandits and Fulani Herdsmen. They all have the same goal and objective, to establish Islamic Caliphate in Nigeria, to expand their territorial control over Nigeria's land and resources and to subjugate the infidels, that is, the Christians and Non-Muslims and Muslims who are not as radicalized as they are. Unfortunately, some of these objectives are shared by some Muslim leaders and politicians in our secular, democratic and culturally diverse Nigeria.



2: Nigeria is a home to more than 200 ethnic groups and dialects. It prides itself as the most populous black African Nation in the world with a population of over 210 million. Highly endowed with human and natural resources that unfortunately have become her undoing rather than blessing, the success and failure of our government since independence is often determined by how well it managed the competing interests and diversity that are inevitable in a heterogeneous nation like ours. Government's greatest burden is corruption and the lack of capacity to serve a common purpose and shared vision that puts a country on the path of peace, truth and justice. As a result, military coups and counter coups, corruption, struggle for clannish interests and religious domination has largely led to violence, poverty and impunity.



Anyone familiar with some of the Nigerian tribes must have heard about the Hausa-Fulani tribe. Well, the "Fulani" suffix, which as of today has overwhelmed and annihilated the "Hausa" prefix is the outcome of the religious expedition of Uthman Dan Fodio". There are scholarly thoughts that the resistance of the Yoruba people of the Southwestern Nigeria and the British colonialism stopped the further expansion of the Caliphate to the Western part of Nigeria.



3: There are other attempts in the recent history of Nigeria to expand the Caliphate. They include:

a. The Maitatsine riots (1980-85). "Maitatsine movement condemned Christianity, the Nigerian State, and its structures. The uprising continued with its demand for an Islamic State until 1985. In every such uprising and its associated demands, Christian communities were the worst-hit victims. Maitatsine movement is the prototype of the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency. Both are similar in ideology and mechanisms".


b. Zango Kataf Riot 1992 consolidated the use of the state's machinery for Christian persecution and for the expansion of the caliphate. The crisis was fuelled by the expansionist instinct of some Northern Muslim communities in Kaduna State, Northwestern Nigeria. It was a riot between the Fulani-Hausa settlers, who were predominantly Muslims, and the Atyab indigenous people, who are regarded as the landowners. The crisis and its outcome show that the idea of the expansion of the caliphate initiated by Uthman Dan Fodio in 1804 continues more sinisterly because of its use of government institutions: the military, the executive, and judicial power of the state. As it was with other crisis, the victims of the Zango Kataf were Northern and Southern Christians.


c. The Ongoing Uprising of ISWAP and Boko Haram

Islamic State of West Africa (ISWAP) and Boko Haram, two major terrorist organisations in Nigeria and West African region were emboldened by Al Qaida, ISIS and Taliban activities going on around the world. Boko Haram's goal was exactly what the Taliban just achieved in Afghanistan. Since their objectives and mode of operation were similar to other international terrorist groups they became inspired to fulfil their age long ambition to take over Nigeria. Some powerful and influential descendants of Uthman Dan Fodio in Nigeria and their Cousins from Niger and Chad are not relenting in their quest to continue with the terrorism that was resisted in part of the Middle Belt, Southern and Western Nigeria. It is in the present administration that the "herders' association Miyetti Allah, all of whom are Fulani Muslims from northern Nigeria and other countries became a visible political group". "Their visibility was so obnoxious that they openly threatened State governors". They claimed responsibility for some of the deadly attacks which took place in Benue State (a predominantly Christian State) and other Middle Belt States that are heavily populated by Christians. This group has never been charged or reprimanded for their activities and for their impunity.



4: Persecution of Christians is more visible in the Northern and the Middle Belt of Nigeria. In states that operate the Sharia law, Christians face daily harassment and deprivation from the benefits due to citizens in their states. They face discrimination on account of their Christian faith. Since Buhari became president of Nigeria in 2015, over 3,478 people had been killed and 2,256 have been kidnapped (Punch Newspaper, 21st of June 2022). The killings have continued to increase and at the time when the number of deaths will be published at the end of the year, the world will be embarrassed by the figure. Majority of the victims of the ongoing ethnic cleansing are Christians whom they commonly refer to as Maguzawa.



Boko Haram, Bandits and ISWAP have become so daring that they operate in the broad day light kidnapping innocent travelers on highways, farmers in the field and citizens going about their daily lives. The kidnap of Chibok girls remain a great embarrassment and an incident hard to imagine. Many of the girls remain in captivity to this day. I am here with the list of underage Christian girls who were forcefully married and converted to Islam by their abductors in two Northern States. Priests and Church leaders have been particularly targeted in the recent time. Some were picked up from their rectories and their families were compelled to come up with millions of Naira to secure their release and some have been mercilessly murdered in the process. It has become useless reporting cases of attack and kidnap to the police. They are helpless too. They will often advice victims' family to pay the ransom requested to save the lives of their loved ones.

Also, some villages in the Northern Nigeria have been sacked and burnt and millions of the people now live in IDP camps. Many of such attacks and killings are no longer in the news because cases have become too frequent and when culprits are arrested they are not charged to court. They are often released under the bogus reform program which has kept recycling violent criminals back to the battle field.



5: The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria has spoken against the unprecedented insecurity situation in Nigeria repeatedly but to no avail. We have walked for life, protested and even called the President to resign if he is incapable of fulfilling the basic purpose of Government, the security of lives and properties of citizens, even at that, nothing has changed. With 3,478 people killed as at June this year and the increased cases of terror thereafter, I strongly appeal to this important body and all people of goodwill to compel the Nigerian Government to stop the genocide. Or, in the least, ask for help from other countries before Nigeria is overrun as is the case of Afghanistan. The entire nation is on the edge, apprehensive of a major offensive that may sweep round the entire country. Already, many Embassies were forced to close down last two weeks as a result of an intelligence report predicting such major attack in Abuja, the Federal Capital of Nigeria.



6: Thanks for the patronage of the Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) UK for sponsoring a Petition "demanding the arrest and imprisonment of terrorists, the return of lands and villages as well as compensation for the destruction of properties and livelihood" of victims. This pogrom is not caused by Climate Change as believed by some Western Climate Change ideologists. It is far from it. It is clearly the use of terrorism to accomplish an age long ethno/religious objective. The world must stop this evil and hold the perpetrators accountable.



7: In conclusion, I had made the case at a different forum for more engagement with the Western nations to enlist the services of the international monitoring team to bring to light the enormity of the persecution of Christians and the ethnic minority in Nigeria. It is an uphill climb getting the attention of the world on this matter, hence I have titled this testimony: The Ongoing Ethno/Religious Persecution in Nigeria: Scaling the Barriers of Deafening Silence. No one or group of people should have the audacity under any circumstance to unleash the level of mayhem going on in Nigeria on innocent citizens. The swiftness with which the Nigeria Authorities countered the terrorist alert that was raised by the British and America Embassies in Nigeria last two weeks goes to show the length they will go to deny the obvious. The world must insist that terrorists, their sponsors and their sympathizers be brought to justice. Please, ask the Nigerian government to deploy all the Legal instruments and political institutions for protecting and enforcing the rights and freedom of the minority to stop the killings.