Christian Persecution Update

Anti-Christian attacks in Nigeria threaten precarious balance of faiths

Psalm 25:19. Consider mine enemies; for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred.

Psalm 38:19. But mine enemies are lively, and they are strong: and they that hate me wrongfully are multiplied.

Psalm 41:7. All that hate me whisper together against me: against me do they devise my hurt.

Psalm 69:4. They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty: then I restored that which I took not away.

Psalm 69:14. Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters.

Matthew 10:22. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.

Mark 13:13. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

Luke 6:22. Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.

Luke 21:17. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.

John 7:7. The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.

John 15:18. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.

John 15:23. He that hateth me hateth my Father also.

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:9-14).

Anti-Christian attacks in Nigeria threaten precarious balance of faiths

August 8, 2019. RNS

(RNS) — Over the weekend, Chidinma Ibeleji, a deaconess in the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Nigeria, was kidnapped along with four others on her way to her Pentecostal denomination’s annual convention in Lagos.

All five were rescued within days, but not all stories in this West African country end so well. The week before, the Rev. Paul Offu, a Catholic priest, was shot dead in the south of the country. Catholic priests called for government action in response to his slaying and that of another priest, the Rev. Clement Ugwu, who was kidnapped in March and found dead days later. Both deaths have been blamed on Muslim Fulani herdsmen.  

The attacks have put Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, in a tight spot as he tries to manage a country nearly evenly split between Christians and Muslims. Many considered his re-election in February to bode well for all Nigerians, but the uptick in anti-Christian violence has opened Buhari, a Fulani Muslim himself, to increasing criticism. In a public letter, former President Olusegun Obasanjo said he now fears “spontaneous or planned reprisal attacks against Fulani which may inadvertently or advertently mushroom into pogrom or Rwanda-type genocide that we did not believe could happen and yet it happened.”

He’s not entirely exaggerating. In Nigeria, religion stands at the intersection of a divisive colonial history and the current crisis caused by drought and land scarcity. It is impossible to discuss nearly any topic in Nigeria without also discussing faith.

The most immediate cause of strife is a government proposal to move Fulani herdsmen from their historic areas in the north of the country into the south, which is occupied by Igbo Christians and Yorubas, who are both Christians and traditional religious practitioners. The program, the Rural Grazing Area settlement program, or RUGA, was designed to help herdsmen escape depleted herding areas and drought.

But few are happy with RUGA, and though it has been postponed for now, the political battle over it has continued. With the recent killings and kidnappings, the rhetoric against Fulani herdsmen has increased, with clerics and other leaders blaming them for every act of robbery, kidnapping or murder that occurs.

Added to all of this is the ongoing threat of Boko Haram, whose 2014 kidnapping of 276 female students from Chibok is still unresolved, and which continues to attack Christian churches in the north.

It is not difficult then, to see the clergy attacks as an issue not only for religious leaders, but for Nigeria’s stability as a nation.

Religious leaders have been supportive of the government, but the protests by Catholic priests over the killings showed how tensions between religious groups are leading them to question the authorities. The archbishop of Ibadan Province and president of the Bishops Conference said: “Time is running out for Nigeria if security is not improved. We call on governments at all levels, traditional and other civil authorities to please save the country.” Adeyeye Ogunwusi, the  head of Yoruba traditional religion known as the Ooni of Ife, has called for “kicking out” the bad Fulani from the country.

Others are more constrained. E.A. Adeboye, leader of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, one of the country’s largest denominations, has been careful not to criticize Buhari since the vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, is also a pastor in the RCCG. In 2010, during the Obasanjo presidency, Adeboye condemned similar violence and called for a million-man protest against the declining security of the country.

Adeboye is feeling pressure to raise his voice again. Last month, a group of Nigerian celebrities protested at Redemption Camp, the RCCG’s city-sized main campus.

These events bear close scrutiny in America as well. Conservative religious groups in America have taken up the cause of persecuted and murdered Christians in NigeriaDavid Curry, leader of Open Door Ministries, says that 3,731Christians were killed in Nigeria in the past year. Two weeks ago, the Trump administration awarded Imam Abubakar Abullahi the 2019 Religious Freedom Award, for hiding Christians in his home and mosque during an attack in central Nigeria.

It remains to be seen if Buhari can stem the crisis. His position as a Fulani and Muslim, with a Pentecostal vice president, makes for a government intrinsically tied to religious groups in ways that make it easy for detractors to claim favoritism for one group or another in what is a contentious, life-threatening situation for many.

For Buhari, holding all of these religious groups together in an increasingly dangerous situation on the roads and worship centers will be the test of his second term, and a grave test for a nation trying to balance its religious diversity.

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