02 January 2020, The Tablet

Why Nigeria must do more to stop Christians being murdered

by Ruth Gledhill , and Peter Ajayi Dada, CNS

Why Nigeria must do more to stop Christians being murdered

The killings are thought to be retaliation for the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in military raid in Syria last October.

Leading Catholic analysts have called for the world to wake up to evidence that Islamic State is on the rise again in Nigeria, where many Christians were slaughtered over the Christmas period. 

The murders included including the massacre of an entire wedding party on Boxing Day.

On the same day, IS released a 56-second video that the group claimed depicted the killing of 10 Christians and one Muslim in Nigeria.

The video, made to avenge the death of the IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during a US raid in Syria in October, featured men that the group claimed had been captured in Nigeria's north-eastern Borno state.

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a Pontifical foundation that supports persecuted and oppressed Christians worldwide, warned that this was not an isolated incident and questioned whether the government of Nigeria was doing enough.

John Pontifex from ACN told The Tablet: “In the context of an ongoing cycle of persecution, this hideous Christmas video puts Christians in Nigeria and elsewhere on notice that as the new decade opens they are at direct risk from Islamist militants. Such aggressors seek nothing less than their eradication.

“Released on Boxing Day by Daesh (ISIS) offshoot Islamic State West Africa Province, the video purports to show 10 Christians and one Muslim being beheaded, apparently on Christmas Day as a revenge act for the death of two sheikhs, including Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last October.

“The video’s voiceover is chilling: ‘This message is to the Christians in the world… Those who you see in front of us are Christians and we will shed their blood as revenge for the two dignified sheikhs.’

“Nor is this an isolated incident. Other reports from Nigeria show that on Christmas Eve, another Islamist group, Boko Haram, raided a mainly Christian village in Borno State in northeast Nigeria and killed seven people.

“As was reported in ACN’s recent ‘Persecuted and Forgotten?’ report on violence and oppression against Christians, in 2018 a reported 3,781 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons. As such, Nigeria lays claim to being the country with the most number of Christians killed for their faith. Nor does the situation show any sign of improvement.”

“The West needs to wake up to the fact that innocent people in Nigeria – not just Christians but many Muslims too – are at risk of slaughter. Far from being pushed back, Islamist militants in the country seem to be growing and on the march.

“And questions continue to be asked about whether the Government in Nigeria is doing enough. Aid to the Church in Need project partners in Nigeria have repeatedly expressed deep concern about security. As was expressed by one project partner, ‘Where is the moral revulsion at this tragedy?’”

ACN's October report had said that inn parts of Africa, Islamist violence was putting huge pressure on Christians who "are threatened by Islamists seeking to eliminate the church – either by use of force or by dishonest means, including bribing people to convert." In Nigeria, the report warned, Islamist militants have been continuing "a reign of terror against Christians and Muslims alike", with more than 3,700 Christians were killed in 2018.

And in a further massacre, Father Francis Arinse, communications director of the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri, confirmed that a bride-to-be, Martha Bulus, and her bridal party were beheaded on Boxing Day at Gwoza, also in Borno state.

Father Arinse told Catholic News Service that Bulus and her companions were traveling from Maiduguri to her wedding, intended to take place on New Year's Eve, when they were killed.

"They were beheaded by suspected Boko Haram insurgents at Gwoza on their way to her country home," he told CNS. He added that Bulus used to be his parishioner at St Augustine Catholic Church, Maiduguri, after he was first ordained.

Father Arinse said there had been a series of abductions in the area recently. He also called on government agencies to improve security in northeast Nigeria.

In a related development, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, the Nigerian chief of army staff, ordered the county's anti-terrorism unit to increase pressure on terrorists

He said the government would provide the needed support to enable them to pursue the war against insurgency and other criminal activities in the country.

Buratai praised the troops for their dealings with Islamic State of West Africa Province terrorists, formerly Boko Haram, in the region.

"I am glad to be here with you because this is one of the areas that have been quite strategic in the operation," he said.

"You have done great, and I want to commend you for standing firm against all the criminals. Do not give them any breathing space. That means you must go out at all times, day and night, whether rain or sunshine, and make sure you deal with them.

"These criminals want to Balkanize our country and we must not allow it," he said.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby tweeted: "The murder by terrorists of 12 Christian hostages in Nigeria has been much ignored over Christmas. With deep sorrow let us pray for them and those close to them, and for God’s judgement on their killers. They are martyrs to Christ.




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