UK/NIGERIA: Killings of Christians on the rise

The aftermath of an attack by a Boko Haram suicide bomber on a church in Kaduna.
The aftermath of an attack by a Boko Haram suicide bomber on a church in Kaduna.

The number of Nigerian Christians killed or abducted because of their faith has drastically increased since 2020, according to a report by a UK parliamentary group set to be launched today (4th July).

The fresh report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for International Freedom of Religion or Belief presented evidence that violations of religious freedom in the West African country have worsened over the last three years – particularly noting the increasing vulnerability of the Christian, Humanist and moderate Muslim communities.

The report Nigeria: Unfolding Genocide? highlights research by Open Doors showing that 89 percent of all Christians killed worldwide are in Nigeria and that the country’s government has “yet to respond adequately to the crisis”.

Various extremist groups have carried out attacks independently, but there is a “crossover between the motives, tactics and ideology,” the report points out.

The report cites supporting data submitted by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), showing that “there is growing evidence that Fulani Bandit groups are working with Boko Haram/ISWAP”.

Nigeria: Unfolding Genocide? found those submitting evidence were divided over whether the term ‘genocide’ accurately described Nigeria’s situation.

But the report also noted “warnings from people based in Nigeria [about] the danger of the violence meeting the definition of genocide” – including Nigeria’s House of Representatives in 2018.

ACN provided evidence of senior Nigerians designating the systematic attacks as genocide, including the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum and Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto.

Father Joe Bature Fidelis, who has overseen ACN-backed projects in Nigeria, said that poverty is likely to worsen as a result of the violence.

He noted: “Perpetrators confuse the narrative with other factors such as climate change, unfair treatment and marginalisation to hide under the cover and perpetrate crime.”

Respondents stressed that climate change is not the primary cause of recent tragedies in Nigeria – with Bishop Jude Arogundade of Ondo stating: “To suggest or make a connection between victims of terror and consequences of climate change is not only misleading but also exactly rubbing salt to the injuries of all who have suffered terrorism in Nigeria” – and urged the UK Government to reconsider its approach to the humanitarian crisis.

The report also recommended that the UK Government acknowledge the religious dimension of the conflict – and that associated human rights violations should be raised regularly in bilateral meetings with the Nigerian Government.

The APPG also calls on the UK Government to urge its Nigerian counterparts “to allow independent bodies to investigate claims of atrocities and support an international fact-finding commission to investigate Nigeria’s security crisis”.

The report stresses that faith-based persecution is “highly relevant to the UK-Nigeria Defence and Security Partnership”, while also having “implications for the wider region and continent”.

Respondents also suggested that “the COVID-19 pandemic significantly worsened the situation for already vulnerable communities,” and the resulting security challenges “have the potential to threaten the very existence of the Nigerian state”.