“Towards a Genocide of Christians in Nigeria” was the title of a conference held in Brussels on June 12, 2022, sponsored by the Interparliamentary Group for Religious Freedom, which is co-chaired by Italian MEP Carlo Fidanza. Because judging by the present troubling situation in this African country overlooking the Gulf of Guinea, it most certainly looks like there is a genocidal intent behind the persecution of Christians.
“The inability or unwillingness of the government, led by Muhammadu Buhari, to ensure the safety of Christian communities is increasingly evident. Some even say this is happening for the purpose of furthering the Islamization of the whole country.” These heavy words lead straight to one conclusion: namely, the need to “intensify the action of the international community to stop this slaughter. At the European level, it is necessary to provide for conditionality mechanisms that cut the huge EU allocations for cooperation projects towards third countries to concrete commitment and for the defense of religious freedom and minority rights against all fundamentalism.”
During the proceedings, the testimony of Jude Ayodeji Arogundade, Bishop of Ondo, one of the predominantly Christian Nigerian states, was precious. The area under his pastoral care is most affected by the attacks of Islamist groups from the entire country. In fact, everyone remembers the recent killing of more than 40 Christians in St. Francis Church in Owo, who were slaughtered by the Fulani militia, originally herders and nomads of the Islamic religion.
However, the incursions of Fulani herdsmen (whose motive, inter alia, is to seize the land that Christian Nigerians desperately try to devote to agriculture) are only one aspect of the severe persecution suffered by Christians there. It would in fact be wrong to make it solely a matter of space and economies.
“Over 98 million Christians live in Nigeria,” the organizers of the conference recalled, “representing nearly half of the country’s 211.5 million inhabitants. But in 12 years, from July 2009 to August 2021, 43,000 Christians have been shot dead by jihadists and their collaborators in Nigeria.”
“An estimated 17,500 churches and more than 2,000 Christian schools have been attacked,” they continue. “Ten million northern Christians were driven from their homes and six million forced to flee to avoid being killed. More than 500 Christian communities in northern Nigeria were looted and conquered by jihadists. The terrorist actions by Boko Haram and ISWAP (the Nigerian branch of ISIS) have been joined by raids of Fulani herdsmen, aiming to eradicate the Christian presence in those areas by seizing their land.”
It’s been only two months since the tragic death of Deborah Yakubu, young Christian student who was stoned and set on fire in Shokoto by fellow college students on charges of having “blasphemed Muhammad.”