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Christians in Africa face worrying rise in killings, persecution and displacement

The persecution of Christians should be a focus of governments all across the world that have commitments to human rights and religious freedom. 

For more coverage of persecution as a growing phenomenon and actions to safeguard religious freedom, see here.

“Christians in Africa face worrying rise in killings, persecution and displacement,” by Paul Tilsley, Fox News, April 14, 2024:

JOHANNESBURG — Christianity is in deadly crisis in more than half of Africa’s 54 countries, sources say. Christian groups contacted by Fox News Digital say the faithful are being persecuted, killed and displaced in 28 countries on the continent.

The situation is the worst in Nigeria. Mission group Open Doors US told Fox News Digital its research reports that “nine out of 10 Christians killed for their faith in 2023 were in Nigeria. However, this number is likely higher, as many deaths go unreported.”

“Nigeria is one of the deadliest places on earth to be a Christian,” Ryan Brown, Open Doors US CEO, told Fox News Digital. “Of the nearly 5,000 Christians killed for their faith in 2023 worldwide, a staggering 82% of them were in Nigeria.”

The Nigerian research group Intersociety, the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law, calls the killing of Nigeria’s Christians genocide and puts the death toll higher, claiming over 8,000 Nigerian Christians were killed or abducted from January 2023 to the end of January 2024. Most of them were reportedly savagely hacked to death with knives. Intersociety says over 18,500 places of Christian worship were destroyed across Nigeria from 2009-2023.

And this slaughter is continuing, Intersociety’s Emeka Umeagbalasi told Fox News Digital.

“(An) estimated 500-600 Christians are believed to have been hacked to death for professing to be Christians in Nigeria, covering January to the first week of April 2024,” Umeagbalasi said. “They are being killed, raped and displaced, and their homes and, sometimes, churches burnt. In some occasions, they are forced, under pain of death, to publicly change their religion to Islam.”

“With the rise of radical Islam in Africa, there is a definite increase in the targeting and persecution of Christians,” Todd Nettleton, host of the Voice of the Martyrs Radio Network told Fox News Digital. He added that these attacks come in a wide range, from “well-known groups like Boko Haram in Nigeria and al-Shabaab in Somalia, to less-well-known but equally violent groups in northern Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo and other nations.

“Currently, there are 28 countries on the African continent listed on the Open Doors’ US 2024 World Watch List, nations where Christians routinely face oppression, harassment and violence because of their faith in Christ.”

Despite an estimated 46% of the population being Christian, Nigerian Christians are often ripped from their homes too, with Brown of Open Doors US reporting that “of the 34.5 million displaced people across sub-Saharan Africa due to political instability, conflict and extremism, an estimated 16.2 million are Christians.”

Brown added, “As Fulani militant (Islamist) herdsmen wish to claim land in the middle of Nigeria, where there is the best grazing, they attack Christian villages, kidnap their people, burn their homes and destroy their crops, claiming the land for themselves.”

Persecution in Nigeria is not new. Boko Haram Muslim militants kidnapped Maryamu Joseph when she was just 7 years old. She managed to escape nine years later, telling the Aid to the Church In Need (ACN) agency, “I suffered so much at the hands of these heartless, ruthless people. They put the Christians in cages, like animals. The first thing they did was forcefully convert us to Islam. They changed my name to Aisha, a Muslim name, and warned us not to pray as Christians, or we would be killed.”

Catholic teacher Emmanuel Joseph witnessed a recent attack on a Catholic and a Baptist Church in Rubuh, in Nigeria’s Kaduna State.

“Mass had just started when we heard guns firing. Parishioners started running everywhere,” Joseph said. “Coming into the church compound, they shot three members who had left the church. They also attacked the local Baptist church and abducted 36 members of the congregation, mostly women, and killed a man there also. We are only focused on how to stay alive, looking upon God for safety in the belief that He will fight back for us.”

“Religious persecution in the north is systemic,” Matthew Man-Oso Ndagoso, the archbishop of Nigeria’s Kaduna State claimed, “I cannot build a church, yet the government employs and pays imams to teach in schools. Every year they have money to build mosques in the budget but will not let you build churches”.

Reports of persecution continue to flood in from the Sahel region — Chad, Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. The latter country’s bishop, Justin Kientega, told ACN parts of his diocese have become no-go areas as jihadists work to impose radical Islam on the population.

“The terrorists gather people and tell them not to go to school,” he said. “They instruct men to grow out their beards and women to wear the Islamic veil.”

In Sudan, Brown of Open Doors US said, there’s more persecution of Christians.

“There have been 165 churches closed,” Brown said. “Others have been attacked and destroyed. We see in Sudan and so many other places that those who oppose the Christian faith will use these volatile situations as an opportunity to lash out against our brothers and sisters. As we pray for an end to the violence, we remember these brave men and women and pray for their protection as they continue to risk so much.”…

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