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Expert calls attention to persecuted Christians as bishops denounce Islamist violence in Nigeria | National Catholic Register

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In Nigeria as a whole, at least 60,000 Christians have been killed in the past two decades.

Victims of persecution in Nigeria must be listened to, an expert on the persecution of Christians told students at the Franciscan University of Steubenville on Friday.

Stephen Rache, an American lawyer who has worked extensively in persecuted Christian communities in Iraq and Nigeria, told students that the Nigerian government has largely abdicated its responsibility to keep its citizens safe, leading to widespread violence. religiously motivated and general anarchy in the northern part. from the country.

To make matters worse, he said, the US State Department this year, for as yet undisclosed reasons, no longer classifies Nigeria as a “country of particular concern” on a watch list of countries with violations. the most blatant of religious freedom. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has since 2009 recommended the designation of Nigeria as a “CPC”.

“The result of this is that Christians have no more options to get governments to recognize the truth about what is happening,” Rache said.

Rache’s Jan. 28 lecture, “Nigeria on the Brink: Nigeria’s Current Crisis of Anti-Christian Violence and the International Response,” was moderated by writer Kathryn Jean Lopez of National exam.

The conference featured pre-recorded video messages from two Nigerian Bishops: Stephen Dami Mamza of Yola and Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto.

Bishop Mamza, whose several family members were killed by the Islamist group Boko Haram, recently challenged US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to justify his decision to remove Nigeria from the persecution watch list, saying that he had witnessed the ongoing brutal persecution against Christians in Africa. most populous nation.

In Nigeria as a whole, at least 60,000 Christians have been killed in the past two decades. An estimated 3,462 Christians were killed in Nigeria in the first 200 days of 2021, or 17 per day, according to a new study.

Violence against Christians is particularly intense in the northern part of the country, Rache reported, noting that Nigerians regularly face kidnappings along major highways and raids by Muslim herdsmen. In addition, the country’s northern borders are far from secure, with many Muslim looters crossing from the Sahel to attack Christian villages.

In areas where large numbers of Nigerians have been forced from their homes by violence, more than 80 percent of internally displaced people are women and children, he said. Rache said he believes the United Nations and foreign governments, including the US government, have not told the truth about the level of persecution in the country.

In his recorded message, Bishop Kukah noted that his diocese is in the former location of a caliphate and that “violent persecution has always existed in one form or another.” He said he saw the absence of Christians in public life as the result of a clear effort by Muslim authorities to exclude Christians from public roles.

Despite the challenges, Bishop Kukah noted that Catholic education has had a positive impact on Nigeria for decades.

Bishops Mamza and Kukah have stated unequivocally that Islamist extremism is at the heart of the violence and that not only Christians but also Muslims are at risk.

Rache added: “In the Islamic world at the moment there is an element of violence that needs to be addressed.”

Bishop Kukah said he believes “we have lost the sense of friendship in Nigeria, there is no doubt about that,” and decried what he sees as a culture of suspicion, fear and anxiety among neighbors.

He encouraged everyone to take brotherhood and sisterhood more seriously, mentioning Pope Francis’ encyclical on brotherhood and social friendship, Fratelli Tutti. Bishop Kukah said the document and its recommendations on good neighborliness and the protection of the vulnerable are accessible to “all men and women of good will,” not just Christians.