The FIDES News Agency, quoting an Italian SMA priest, says that there is a growing sense of anti-Christianity in Niger following attacks on Christian churches / schools / clinics etc throughout the country.
“The extremist group Boko Haram attacked the city of Diffa yesterday. The attack comes as Niger’s lawmakers are due to vote on a plan to send troops against Boko Haram in Nigeria. This puzzles many local observers” says Fr. Mauro Armanino, a member of the Society of African Missions (SMA) who lives and works in Niger.
The city of Diffa, located 1,400 km from Niamey, was attacked by Boko Haram militants from neighboring Nigeria. Faced with the onslaught of Boko Haram, the Parliament in Niamey has given the green light to the participation of Nigerien troops to the Task Force created by Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Benin to combat the Islamist sect. “We know that many people are fleeing from Diffa to head towards Zinder to then presumably go to the capital Niamey” says Fr. Mauro.
A further element of potential tension in light of the recent anti-Christian attacks. “Indeed, there is growing concern in people” says the missionary. “The attacks carried out by Boko Haram creates a feeling of growing impatience towards any presence which is not a form of Islam”. “In Niger – explains Fr. Mauro – Islam which before was based on Sufism, faced with the explosive social situation, due to the thousands of young people with no future (Niamey has now about 2 million inhabitants), is affected by the preaching and the funds of those who have an extremist vision of religion”. Recently Christian churches paid a heavy price for the work they do for the benefit of all Nigeriens (see Fides 21/01/2015). “The riots carried out on 16 and 17 January saw the destruction of several churches and Catholic missions and already in 2012 there were similar incidents in Maradi and Zinder” notes Fr. Mauro. “The real news is the extent of the unrest and the fury with which the crowd acted. A sign of a growing feeling of anti-Christianity”.