The Persecuted Church of Nigeria

For years now the Christians of Nigeria have suffered intense persecution from extremist Muslim groups, such as Boko Haram and Fulani militants. According to the International Crisis Group, “there were an average of more than 2,000 fatalities per year from 2011 to 2016 in the Middle Belt [a fertile region in central Nigeria]. Although 600 have died in the Middle Belt this year, the number is nearly six times that when the area of concern includes the country’s north, said Robert Destro, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor at the State Department.”

Bishop William Avenya of Gboko in central Nigeria testified before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U. S. Congress on Thursday, December 17, explaining that the killing of Christians in Nigeria constitutes a “calculated genocide.”

While there have been reprisal attacks against Fulanis and other Muslim groups have also been targeted, the overwhelming number of victims have been Christian farmers. The pattern is that Fulani militants move in to a village and kill all the Christians there, sometimes resulting in the murder of hundreds of Christians in one attack. Bishop Avenya testified that the Nigerian government is doing nothing to protect its Christian citizens. Rather, they seem to be supporting the extremist Muslims over against the Christians. “If a community calls the Nigerian equivalent of 911, nobody answers,” Bishop Avenyo said. “There is no effective police protection.” In a much publicized incident earlier this year, eighteen year old Michael Nnadi (pictured above), a Catholic seminarian, was martyred by his Muslim kidnappers for persisting in preaching the faith to his captors. Three other seminarians kidnapped with him were eventually released. On December 15, Fr. Valentine Ezeagu was kidnapped by Muslim militants in the southeastern state of Imo. Eight priests and seminarians, perhaps more, have been kidnapped in 2020.

The U. S. State Department has, for the first time, designated Nigeria as a “country of particular concern” or CPC, a designation reserved for the worst of religious persecutors, such as China, North Korea and Saudi Arabia. This designation received praise from Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who serves as co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, as well as from the Knights of Columbus.

According to its website, Aid to the Church in Need “is a Pontifical Foundation of the Catholic Church, supporting the Catholic faithful and other Christians where they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.” They are providing legal aid to Christians persecuted in Nigeria, support for priests and religious women, and working to raise concern for the plight of Christians in Nigeria. You can reach them here if you are in a position to offer support. Of course, prayers are always in need. I have for many years now dedicated my praying of the Creed when I pray the rosary to the needs of the persecuted Church.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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