UK: Catholic charity shines a light on Nigeria massacres in UK Parliament

Clergy looking after people displaced because of the attacks in Bokkos, Plateau State, Nigeria.
Clergy looking after people displaced because of the attacks in Bokkos, Plateau State, Nigeria.

The UK Parliament has received an exclusive report from a leading Catholic charity about the latest wave of attacks against Christian communities in Nigeria and how the people are terrified amid growing concerns of inaction in the struggle to bring the culprits to justice.

The account, given by Daniel Beurthe of Aid to the Church in Need ACN (UK), the Catholic charity for persecuted Christians, was provided yesterday (23rd April) at a meeting hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Freedom of Religion or Belief in the House of Commons, Westminster.

DUP MP for Strangford Jim Shannon chaired the event, and in attendance was Baroness Cox of Queensbury, founder of Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), as well as representatives from ACN (UK), Open Doors, CSW and ADF International.

Mr Beurthe, ACN (UK)’s Public and Parliamentary Affairs Officer, cited first-hand reports he had received about attacks earlier this month in Nigeria’s Middle Belt given by Father Andrew Dewan, director of communications in the Diocese of Pankshin, Plateau state.

Mr Beurthe said: “Less than two weeks ago, on Friday 12th April, the Fulani terrorists went on a three-day killing spree across a number of towns and villages in his diocese, killing 29 Christians, injuring a further two, and leaving a trail of carnage in their wake with churches and houses burnt down.

“This follows on from an attack which the Fulanis carried out on Easter Monday, in which another 10 Christians were killed, including a pregnant woman and her unborn baby.

“These vicious attacks follow the same pattern as the appalling scenes witnessed over Christmas, in which more than 300 Christian lives were lost after 26 villages were struck in a four-day onslaught.”

Highlighting Father Dewan’s concerns about the Nigerian government’s response, Mr Beurthe said: “Father Andrew lamented, again and again, the inaction from police, local authorities and national government.

“He said to me: ‘There is inaction from the government to this conflict at all levels. The primary purpose of government is to protect lives and property, and they have not done well in this regard.’”

Mr Beurthe set out recommendations made to the UK Government in ACN (UK)’s Religious Freedom in the World: Africa Update report, launched in the UK Parliament last October.

He stated: “The human rights violations in Nigeria have a clear religious dimension which is not sufficiently acknowledged by the UK Government. The UK should acknowledge this and increase support for FoRB programmes and research in Nigeria.

“In addition, the UK should require an annual report on the state of Freedom of Religion or Belief in Nigeria from the UK High Commission in the country.

“With the number of IDPs [internally displaced persons] in the Middle Belt of Nigeria having exceeded 3 million, the UK should take steps to increase the support provided to individuals housed in official or unofficial IDP camps.

“The UK should urge the Nigerian Government to allow independent bodies to investigate claims of atrocities and support an international fact-finding commission to investigate Nigeria’s security crisis and its implications for religious minorities.”

Focusing on the 2022 Pentecost Sunday massacre which took place at St Francis Xavier’s church in Owo, Ondo State, in which 41 Christians were killed and more than 70 injured, Mr Beurthe, shared testimony given by Dominic and Margaret Attah, two survivors who came to Parliament last November for #RedWednesday.

Participants at the meeting in parliament.

At yesterday’s meeting Mr Beurthe delivered a statement that Margaret had provided for him: “I would like to thank Parliament, for their work and the hand of love which they’ve extended to us. I and my family thank them.

“And I’d like to thank charities like Aid to the Church in Need for all their help. You’re all in the prayers of me and my family, for all the work you do for us and for the Church.”