Nigeria and Burkina Faso – Attacks on Christians continue

The BBC was first to report the tragic news that the former Boko Haram insurgency, now known as Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) released a video on December 26 claiming to show the killing of 11 Christians in Nigeria.

According to the BBC, ISWAP stated the killings are part of a campaign to “avenge” the death of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during a US raid in Syria in October.

No details were given about the victims, who were all male, but the BBC reported that the insurgents claimed their victims were “captured in the past weeks” in Nigeria’s north-eastern Borno State.

The 56-second video was produced by the IS “news agency” Amaq.
It was released on 26 December and analysts say it was timed to coincide with Christmas celebrations. 

The United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, is amongst several world leaders who have expressed their deepest condolences to the families of the victims.

Speaking to Vatican News Archbishop Kaigama of Abuja said the Islamist insurgents were “…trying to create a situation of war. They want to see Muslims and Christians fighting. They hope that among the confusion they will have the upper hand and be able to destroy Christians, take over the country and even the neighbouring countries”.

The Archbishop highlighted a policy of systemic injustice in parts of northern Nigeria that deliberately discriminate against Christians. “Sometimes,” Archbishop Kaigama told Vatican Radio, you have no possibility to buy land to build a church in the Northern states where Muslims are the majority. You cannot have Christian religious programmes on television or radio. You cannot teach Christian religious knowledge in schools, or have a Christian Chaplain to help the Christians in the universities. These are serious problems.”

Archbishop Kaigama stated that even in the present government Christians are suffering discrimination. The more “important” and “sensitive” positions are “being given to Muslims”. 

“This is a fact and this is what we have to work on”, the Archbishop concluded, in order to “maintain an equilibrium” and “create equality” so that there may be “justice” and “fairness” for all.

In a statement released to the Irish Catholic newspaper on December 29th, Fr. Malachy Flanagan, SMA Provincial Leader, said: “It is with deep sadness and abhorrence that the Irish Province of the Society of African Missions (SMA) has learned of the brutal murder of 11 people, said to be Christians, which allegedly took place on Christmas Day in Nigeria, by Islamic State associates. The SMA are not present in Borno State where the killings are said to have happened. We send our condolences to the families of those murdered and join our prayers for peace and calm with Archbishop Kaigama of Abuja as he calls for justice and a fairer representation of Christians in the political structures of the country.”

You may listen to Archbishop Kaigama’s interview by clicking here. 

Burkina Faso

Meanwhile the Bishops’ Conference of Burkina Faso has accused the West of ignoring the plight of Christians in West Africa, following the brutal murder of 14 worshippers at a Pentecostal Church in Hantoukoura in the west of the country.

Vatican News reported Bishop Justin Kientega saying he believed that the attack is part of an attempt by radical Islamists to provoke a religious conflict in a country where Christians and Muslims have always lived peaceably side by side, and he argued that the Western world has been ignoring the plight of Christians in West Africa.

“There is an ongoing persecution of Christians. For months, we bishops have been denouncing what is happening in Burkina Faso,” Bishop Kientega said, “but nobody is listening to us.” “Evidently,” he concluded, “the West is more concerned with protecting its own interests.”

You may read the Vatican News report by clicking here.