LONDON — Nigeria is at risk of following the fate of Afghanistan and being overrun by Islamist insurgents unless the West acts firmly to prevent terrorist violence there, an African bishop told British politicians.
Bishop Jude Arogundade of Ondo, Nigeria, said the Christians of his country are suffering persecution so intense that it bordered on genocide.
“The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria has spoken against the unprecedented insecurity situation in Nigeria repeatedly but to no avail,” he said in a Nov. 16 speech in a committee room of the Houses of Parliament.
“We have walked for life, protested and even called the President (Muhammadu Buhari) to resign if he is incapable of fulfilling the basic purpose of government — the security of lives and properties of citizens. Even at that, nothing has changed,” he said.
“With 3,478 people killed as of June this year and the increased cases of terror thereafter,” he said he strongly wished to appeal to the U.K. government and “all people of goodwill to compel the Nigerian government to stop the genocide.”
“Or, in the least, ask for help from other countries before Nigeria is overrun, as is the case of Afghanistan,” the bishop said.
“The entire nation is on the edge, apprehensive of a major offensive that may sweep round the entire country,” he added. “Already, many embassies were forced to close down (the) last two weeks as a result of an intelligence report predicting (a) major attack in Abuja, the federal capital of Nigeria.”
Bishop Arogundade made his remarks at the launch in London of “Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians Oppressed for Their Faith 2020-22,” which was compiled and published by the British branch of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need, which helps persecuted Christians.
He began by recalling the June 5 massacre in his diocese — at St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo. It left 41 people dead and 73 other seriously injured.
“Like other attacks on churches in Nigeria, no one has been charged for committing this crime,” he said.
“No one or group of people should have the audacity under any circumstance to unleash the level of mayhem going on in Nigeria on innocent citizens,” he said.
“The world must insist that terrorists, their sponsors and their sympathizers be brought to justice. Please, ask the Nigerian government to deploy all the legal instruments and political institutions for protecting and enforcing the rights and freedom of the minority to stop the killings.”
The bishop added: “This pogrom is not caused by climate change as believed by some Western climate change ideologists. It is far from it. It is clearly the use of terrorism to accomplish an age-long ethno/religious objective. The world must stop this evil and hold the perpetrators accountable.”
The authors of the report investigated religious freedom in 24 countries over the last two years and found that there was an increase in the oppression or persecution of Christians in three-quarters of them.
They said Africa saw a sharp rise in terrorist violence, with more than 7,600 Nigerian Christians reportedly murdered between January 2021 and June 2022.
They included 20 Nigerian Christians filmed as they were killed in May by terrorists from Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province.
The report identified state authoritarianism as the main driver of worsening oppression in Asia, with North Korea the gravest offender because it continued to routinely and systematically repress religious belief.
The ongoing rise of religious nationalism involving Hindutva and Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist groups active in India and Sri Lanka respectively was blamed for increasing violence against Christians in South Asia, where authorities have also arrested Christians and the forced the cessation of church services.
The report noted that India had witnessed 710 incidents of anti-Christian violence between January 2021 and the start of June 2022, driven in part by political extremism.
In one instance, members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party applauded during a mass rally in Chhattisgarh in October 2021 as Swami Parmatmananda called for Christians to be killed.