European Bishops Decry ‘Criminal Persecution’ of Nigerian Christians

An altar boy swings the thurible of incense during a morning service at the Saint Charles Catholic Church, the site of a 2014 bomb attack blamed on Islamic extremist group Boko Haram, in the predominantly-Christian neighborhood of Sabon Gari in Kano, northern Nigeria Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019. With the leading …
AP Photo/Ben Curtis

ROME — The president of the Commission of European Bishops’ Conferences (COMECE) has decried the ongoing violence and targeted persecution of Christians in Nigeria by Islamist militants.

In a letter to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich said that the Christian communities in Nigeria are “living a situation of continuous attacks by terrorists, insurgents and militias, that in some cases reaches levels of genuine criminal persecution.”

Cardinal Hollerich promised the bishops that COMECE will push for greater EU assistance for Nigerian authorities and institutions, to help combat the violence and persecution and to improve the nation’s stability and prosperity.

In May 2020, COMECE appealed to the international community to increase efforts to put a halt to the violence in Nigeria, bring criminals to justice, support the victims, and promote dialogue and peace.

Along with urging assistance to stop the religiously motivated violence in the country, COMECE also called for the inclusion of Christians, who make up 47 percent of the national population, in all State structures and levels of administrations, including the police and armed forces.

In his recent letter to the Nigerian bishops, Cardinal Hollerich said that his heart goes out in a special way to “the many young people who are forced to leave the country because of violence and lack of socio-economic prospects.”

In its recently released 2020 report, the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) once again designated Nigeria as a “country of particular concern,” or for “engaging in or tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.”

The report noted that since 2009, the Boko Haram Islamic terror group has displaced more than two million people and killed tens of thousands, while Muslim Fulani raiders carry out a violent campaign in Nigeria’s Middle Belt.

According to a disturbing Wall Street Journal report published last December, Islamist Fulani militants are waging a brutal war on Nigeria’s Christians, in a crusade to rid the country’s Middle Belt of non-Muslims.

Fulani extremists now pose a greater threat than the Islamic terror group Boko Haram, wrote Bernard-Henri Lévy, and they carry out systematic jihadist attacks involving burning, raping, maiming, pillaging, and killing.

This “slow-motion war” against Nigeria’s Christians is “massive in scale and horrific in brutality,” wrote Lévy, and yet “the world has hardly noticed.”

While mainstream media normally describe the attacks on Christians as ethnically motivated, this description is false, Lévy insisted, the work of “professional disinformers.”

“They are Islamic extremists of a new stripe,” said a Nigerian NGO director interviewed by Lévy, “more or less linked with Boko Haram.”

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