The president of the Nigerian bishops’ conference has launched an appeal to the West to “make known the atrocities” being suffered by Christians throughout the country.
Nigeria is living in an unprecedented climate of insecurity not seen since the civil war of 1967-1970, which is particularly affecting Christians, said the President of the Bishops’ Conference, Augustine Obiora Akubeze, Archbishop of Benin City.
While “in the past security problems were limited to the north-east of Nigeria, now there is insecurity throughout the whole country,” the archbishop said in an interview with the papal foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
In the face of this “serious lack of security and the increase in anti-Christian attacks,” the prelate called on Western governments and media to “make known the atrocities” taking place in Nigeria. “In this way our government may feel pressure and act,” the archbishop said, and in this way the other nations of the international community may “feel a moral obligation to protect the lives of Christians and all Nigerians who are constantly attacked and killed by Boko Haram and the Islamist Fulani herdsmen.”
The archbishop decried the fact that:
…ninety-five percent of the government representatives are Muslims, in a country where there are about 50 percent Christians and the ones who should ensure our safety belongs to a sect of a religion, to a single ethnic group, in a multi-religious, multi-ethnic nation.
Meanwhile, the executive branch does not do enough to stem “the emergency represented by the violence of the Islamist Fulani herdsmen” and to protect churches and convents, he said.
“The lack of significant prosecutions against them further fuels the belief that they enjoy the support of the federal government,” Akubeze said. Meanwhile, given the lack of state assistance, security is left entirely to the Christian community that has to pay even “to have the protection of the police during Sunday Masses.”
Referring in particular to the recent kidnapping of four seminarians, one of whom was later executed, Archbishop Akubeze recalled that this is nothing new for the local Catholic community since “many priests and religious have been kidnapped recently.”
Catholics are not the only victims of religious violence in the country, however. This past month, the Rev. Lawan Andimi, a local leader of the Christian Association of Nigeria, was beheaded by jihadists in the northeast after having been kidnapped in early January by an armed group of the so-called Islamic State.
“So Buhari is shocked by the killing of Lawan Andima?” the bishop asks. “Many Nigerians wonder whether the president lives in a parallel universe.”
“How can he be surprised after some of us have attended numerous mass burials of Christians killed by Boko Haram?” he added.
His appeal to the international community is to talk as much as possible about the “atrocities taking place in Nigeria” and to put pressure on the local government to establish measures to protect the community. The prelate said:
Our hope is that the nations of the European Union and the United States will feel a moral obligation to protect the lives of Christians and all Nigerians who are constantly attacked and killed by Boko Haram and the Fulani herdsmen.
For his part, Archbishop Matthew Manoso Ndagoso of Kaduna, the diocese where the four seminarians were kidnapped by jihadists last month, summarized the situation succinctly: “We are under siege.”