Attacks on Christians in Nigeria Surging After US Drops ‘Concern’ Tag: Report

By Masara Kim
Masara Kim
Masara Kim
July 12, 2022 Updated: July 21, 2022

More Christians have been killed in Nigeria since President Joe Biden’s administration declared there were no religious freedom violations in the country in October 2021,  watchdogs and church leaders told The Epoch Times.

In the first half of 2022, more than 2,543 Nigerian Christians were murdered by Islamic attackers, according to the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety).

The figure represents an 8.6 percent increase from a total of 4,650 Christian murders reported by Open Doors International.

It includes 350 murders by government security forces propagating an Islamic agenda, reads the report signed by Emeka Umeagbalasi, board chairman of Intersociety, and five others.

Also included are 140 Christian hostages killed by their Muslim abductors.

Analysts speaking to The Epoch Times have called for global action to avert the formation of an Islamic caliphate in Africa’s most populous nation.

US Senators Charge

In October 2021, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken dropped Nigeria from the list of countries of particular concern, sparking criticism from around the world.

Blinken had ignored recommendations from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and global rights groups that pointed to endemic violations in the country.

The commission, which monitors the state of global religious freedom, is tasked with issuing recommendations as to the countries it believes should be designated as countries of concern for their religious liberty violations.

Nigeria had been designated in 2020 by the Trump administration, based on such recommendations.

The delisting of Nigeria means that the country had improved its religious conditions and would no longer face sanctions on the basis of them.

“On the contrary, the situation in Nigeria has grown worse,” argued five U.S. senators in a memo demanding the country’s redesignation.

Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Mike Brawn (R-Ind.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and James Inhofe (R-Okla.), in a joint memo to Blinken, described the decision as misguided.

“Given the abysmal state of religious freedom in Nigeria, it is incumbent upon you to reverse last year’s decision and redesignate the country as a [country of particular concern]. The moment demands that you do so without delay,” the memo states.

The senators cited the recent “blasphemy killing” of Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu—a Christian college student who was stoned to death in northwest Sokoto state—and the massacre of more than 40 parishioners at St. Francis Catholic Church in the city of Owo in southwest Ondo state.

They also acknowledged Nigerian authorities’ suppression of religious minorities and their detaining of individuals indefinitely on “blasphemy-related charges.”

Killings Not ‘Persecution’

Nigeria’s information minister, Lai Mohammed, admitted on July 5 that ISIS terrorists have been attacking churches and Christians in the country’s northeast.

But Mohammed reiterated claims by genocide deniers that killings in other regions aren’t religious.

“Nobody in Nigeria is being persecuted, but we have issues of criminality going on and the criminals really do not make [a] distinction of any religion,” Mohammed told reporters in London.

Salihu Garba, a native of Sokoto state in northwest Nigeria who currently lives in the United States and serves as a minister with the Evangelical Church Winning All in Maryland, told The Epoch Times that Christians are the targets of Nigerian Muslim extremists.

“They occasionally attack nominal Muslims as well as ethnic and religious minorities whom they perceive to have sympathy for Christians,” Garba said.

On April 2, a popular Islamic cleric in Nigeria’s capital city of Abuja, Sheikh Muhammad Nuru Khalid, was fired by his mosque for condemning the killings.

Khalid, a member of the Hausa ethnicity, told The Epoch Times he was threatened after being fired for his comments.

“But I am not intimidated because the killings are real, and I am called to build and not destroy humanity,” he said.

Vice chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria in the country’s north, Rev. Joseph Hayab, told The Epoch Times that Mohammed’s prolonged denial of the murders was encouraging impunity in the country chiefly ruled by Fulani Muslims.

“Nigerian Christians are not safe and are constantly living in fear,” Hayab wrote in a text message. “Today, many pastors are afraid to take pastoral work in some communities.”

Surging Figures

Open Doors International, a group that monitors persecution of Christians around the world, reported in 2021 that 4,650 Christians—or 80 percent of the world’s Christians killed for their faith—died in Nigeria.

That means 13 Christians per day were murdered, according to William Murray, president of Religious Freedom Coalition.

A new report by Intersociety states that attacks on Christians have increased in the past six months.

“The 2,543 Christian killings or deaths indicated that 14 [Christians] were killed daily and 420 monthly,” reads the report obtained by The Epoch Times and confirmed by Umeagbalasi.

The report shows the top three states include northwest Kaduna, with 323 deaths; central Niger, with 264 deaths; and Plateau, also in the central region, trailing closely with 229 deaths.

Figures include 140 murders of kidnapped Christians by terrorists. Also included are what are said to be 350 targeted religious murders by security forces.

The figures could be a lot higher, said Mark Lipdo, program coordinator at Stefanos Foundation, an organization that tracks religious killings in Nigeria.

“We can count the number of Christians killed in Plateau, Southern Kaduna, Benue, and other places, but can you count the number of Christians killed in Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, and other parts of the north?” Lipdo said. “Nobody goes there to cover the stories.”

The Epoch Times has previously reported on terrorists and officials suppressing press freedom through targeted attacks and the intimidation of reporters. Epoch Times reporter Luka Binniyat was jailed in Kaduna for reporting on attacks.

Islamic Empire Fears

The attacks causing population displacements across the country are aimed at religious and political domination, Lipdo said.

“Their target is to create an Islamic empire,” he said.

Garba gave a parallel opinion, saying: “The plan is to exterminate Christianity in the whole of Nigeria. Where they don’t succeed with that, they will reduce Christianity to a level where it will no longer be a threat to Islam.”

According to Solomon Maren, a member of the Nigerian House of Representatives, as much as a quarter of Nigeria’s 200 million population has been displaced by Islamic attacks in recent years.

“In fact, local governments have been displaced,” Maren told The Epoch Times. “Many of the communities have been taken over by the attackers.”

After the brazen attack on Catholic worshippers at St. Francis Catholic Church, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) noted the “significant spread in violence against Christians and new threats in Nigeria that cannot be ignored.”

“Previously, Ondo had not seen major militant activity, and the attack indicates the southward migration of terror towards Christian-majority regions as well as Nigeria’s oil-producing areas,” Smith wrote in a letter to Victoria Nuland, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs.

A former archbishop of the Catholic archdiocese of Owerri, the capital of southeast Imo state, Anthony Obinna, told The Epoch Times that several territories in the region have been seized by Islamic militants.

“Those areas have become no-go zones for Christians,” Obinna said.

Local officials have confirmed the annexations.

No End in Sight

In a June 7 statement, Abia state Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu ordered a military raid of forests allegedly seized by terrorists in the state.

The prelate of the Methodist Church Nigeria, Kalu Samuel Uche, was recently kidnapped near one of the forests known as Isuochi.

The large tropical rainforest located in the Umunneochi county of Abia borders all nine states in Nigeria’s southeast.

“As long as the perpetrators can continue with impunity there’s no indication that there will be an end to the killings,” British parliamentarian Baroness Caroline Cox wrote to The Epoch Times.

“There’s an urgent need for the Nigerian government and the international community to call the perpetrators to account.

“Until and unless they do so, they can be seen to be complicit.”

Masara Kim