“Killing Christians” and “destroying Christianity” in northern Nigeria are top objectives for Islamist terror groups – according to one of the country’s most respected bishops – who says all the faithful are now at risk.
Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto said that in persecuting Christians, Boko Haram had “exploited” an opportunity provided both by northern Nigeria’s “Muslim elite” and President Muhammadu Bahari’s regime.
The bishop accused leading Muslims of systematic discrimination against Christians and hit out against “the most nepotistic and narcissistic government in known history”.
Bishop Kukah made his comments in a homily at the funeral of 18-year-old seminarian Michael Nnadi of the Good Shepherd Seminary, Kaduna, who was abducted and murdered.
The bishop said: “For us Christians, this death is a metaphor for the fate of all Christians in Nigeria, but especially northern Nigeria.
“For us Christians, it would seem safe to say that we are all marked men and women today.”
Mr Nnadi was one of four seminarians kidnapped at Kaduna seminary on 8th January – the others were all released.
The abductions followed the apparent beheading of 10 Christians on Christmas Day 2019 by a Daesh (ISIS) affiliate. On 20th January Boko Haram killed Rev Lawan Andimi, chairman of the Adamawa state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria.
Describing the Muslim elite’s years-long refusal to grant equality to Christians in the north, Bishop Kukah said in his homily: “This is the window that the killers of Boko Haram have exploited and turned into a door of death.
“It is why killing Christians and destroying Christianity is seen as one of their key missions.”
Criticising the government for incompetence and prejudice against Christians, the bishop said: “[President Buhari’s] north has become one large grave yard, a valley of dry bones, the nastiest and most brutish part of our dear country.”
The bishop went on to criticise people – including in the West – who deny the religious component to the violence in northern Nigeria.
He said: “Are we to believe that simply because Boko Haram kills Muslims too, they wear no religious garb? Are we to deny the evidence before us, of kidnappers separating Muslims from infidels or compelling Christians to convert or die?”
Begging the faithful not to retaliate, he said: “Are we angry? Yes, we are. Are we sad? Of course, we are. Are we tempted to vengeance? Indeed, we are. Do we feel betrayed? You bet. Do we know what to do? Definitely.”
He added: “Are we in a war? Yes. But what would Christ have us do? The only way He has pointed out to us is the non-violent way. It is the road less travelled, but it is the only way.”
The bishop paid tribute to the support provided by leading Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need throughout seminarian Michael Nnadi’s ordeal and afterwards.
He said: “A staff [member] of the Aid to the Church in Need, an organisation dedicated to the cause of the persecution of Christians around the world, called me frantically immediately after the news of the kidnappings of the seminarians went out.”
He added: “They remained with us emotionally”.