Some British parliamentarians under the aegis of All Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief (APPG) on Monday June 15 launched a report on persecution of Christians in Nigeria, Church Times Nigeria is reporting.
The report, which was launched in the House of Commons in London, chronicled findings on persecution of people of Christian faith in Nigeria and also made recommendations to tackle the menace.
The UK All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief (APPG) is a group of over 100 British Parliamentarians from different political parties and from both Houses of Parliament.
It exists to promote Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”
The group, in the report, flayed the growing power and influence of Islamist extremism across the sahel.
“It is this power and influence that drive some Fulani herders to target Christians and symbols of Christian identities such as Churches,” the group said.
Jim Shannon, who chairs the group, said in his forward to the compilation explained that the “the views expressed in the report are those of the group and not that of the British House of Commons or House of Lords.”
“Shockingly for a Commonwealth country, Nigeria ranks twelfth on Open Door World Watch List 2020 of the countries in which Christians are most persecuted,” Shannon said
“By comparison, Syria ranks eleventh and Saudi Arabia ranks thirteenth, with Iraq fifteenth and Egypt sixteenth. Nigeria is currently just one rank below ‘extreme’.
“Similarly, Sri Lanka ranks thirtieth, despite bombings of worshiping Christians on Easter Sunday 2019 which killed 259 and injured over 500.”
The MP said Boko Haram is one of the main drivers of the persecution in Nigeria, saying, “They frequently abduct and kill those who refuse to conform to their extremist brand of Islam.”
Shannon enumerated some of the attacks carried out by the terrorists in the last seven months.
“On 22 December 2019, in Borno state, Boko Haram jihadists attacked two passenger buses and released the Muslim passengers.
“They then held back the Christians, separating the men and women. A pastor from Deeper Life Bible Church and two other men were killed on the spot, while the pastor’s relative and two humanitarian workers were abducted.
“On 26 December 2019, members of the Islamic State West Africa Province (a Daesh affiliate) released a horrific video, which showed the execution of eleven Christian prisoners – presumably to coincide with Christmas celebrations.
“Then on Christmas Eve, another horrific report came from a Christian village near the town of Chibok in Borno. Numerous Boko Haram jihadists driving trucks and motorcycles stormed into Kwarangulum, firing at residents, looting all they could and burning their homes.
“The saddest account of all emerged on Boxing Day 2019, when a Christian bride-to-be and her entire bridal party were massacred while traveling in Adamawa state to prepare for her New Years’ Eve wedding.
“Father Francis Arinze, a diocesan communications director of Nigeria’s Catholic Church, reported that Martha Bulus, her sister Zainab and five others were ritually slaughtered. He told Catholic News Service that “they were beheaded by suspected Boko Haram insurgents at Gwoza on their way to her country home”.
Shannon said peaceable Muslims, through collateral violence, can also become victims of this cruel Islamist religious ideology.
He said, “It is a destructive and divisive ideology which readily mutates into crimes against humanity and can pave the way for genocide.”
According to him, “Fulani herdsmen have resulted in the killing, maiming, dispossession and eviction of thousands of Christians. It is difficult for us in the West to sometimes even imagine this kind of suffering, so it is important that we recognise the stories of survivors.”
On the attack on Ngar village, Shannon said, “a survivor called Margaret said: “[My sister] was raped and her wrists cut off before she was shot through the heart. They took my brother, his wife and all their six children, tied and slaughtered them like animals.”
“Similarly, Veronica, from Dogon Noma, said: “Another man attacked me with a machete twice, once to the neck and once to my hand. I was so confused. I lost consciousness. When I woke up, I saw my daughter on ground – she was dead – with my chopped finger in her mouth.” Antonia Aje, from Karamai, said: “I saw my brother-in-law’s body on the ground, hacked to pieces by a machete… Our home is destroyed. The hospital was burnt. They tried to burn the roof of the church by piling up the chairs, like a bonfire.”
On the abducted Dapchi school girl, Leah Sharibu, who is still in the captivity of the terrorists, Shannon said, “Two years ago, 14-year old Leah Sharibu was abducted by Islamist extremists from her school in Dapchi, north-east Nigeria. There are reports that she was enslaved, raped and impregnated, giving birth to a child, and that she has been denied her freedom for refusing to convert to Islam as a precondition for her release.
“Leah represents the worldwide struggle both for freedom of religion and belief and the unacceptable violence directed at women and girls. There are thousands of Leahs held all over Nigeria, and across the world.”
Shannon appealed to his colleagues to spare a thought for those “Christians who face not only a pandemic but also threats of violence and persecution that we can’t imagine. I urge the UK and Nigerian Governments to do all that they can to bring an end to this violence and bring its perpetrators to justice.”
Others who spoke at the event are Co-Chair, Baroness Cox and Rebecca Sharibu, the mother of Leah Sharibu.