“Violence against Christians has increased significantly in sub-Saharan Africa. But the world community doesn’t take it seriously,” says Illia Djadi. In an interview with Deutsche Welle, the Africa expert from the aid organization “Open Doors” spoke of daily suffering: “There are regions in Nigeria where going to church is like a one-way ticket.” Djadi shows himself particularly concerned about the situation in Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The bloody violence, which Islamists often emanate, is also spreading to regions in neighboring countries, he reports.
In the new “World Persecution Index” from “Open Doors”, the extent of violence against Christians has reached a new high, according to the aid organization. The total number of Christians who are subjected to intense persecution and discrimination because of their faith is similar to 2022 at 360 million.
However, the violence is increasing in severity. According to “Open Doors”, at least 5,621 Christians were murdered between October 1, 2021 and September 30, 2022; that is a good 80 percent more than five years ago (3066). During the reporting period, 4,726 kidnappings by Christians were reported in Nigeria alone; last year at least 2,510 Christians were affected.
“The persecution has been increasing in intensity for years,” says Markus Rode, head of “Open Doors” in Germany. Of the ten countries in the world where the persecution of Christians is worst, five (2022: four) are in Africa. In Nigeria and other sub-Saharan countries in particular, the agency has seen a significant increase in violent incidents.
Last weekend alone, two deadly attacks became known. At least 17 people were killed and dozens more injured in a bomb attack at a service at a Pentecostal church in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. And in northern Nigeria, unknown perpetrators burned down a vicarage in which the local priest had barricaded himself from them – he died in the flames.
Illia Djadi refers to followers of an Islamist ideology who wanted to set up an Islamic caliphate from Nigeria. “That is why the Christians are the main target. The jihadists want them to convert.” But Djadi explains that even moderate Muslims who don’t want to bow to the radical stance of the jihadists would fall victim to the terrorists. They often attack schools because education is their enemy.
“Open Doors”, which describes itself as an aid organization for persecuted Christians, laments the lack of international attention given to the suffering of Christians in sub-Saharan Africa. Djadi says there was a high level of mobilization by the international community and international coalitions when it came to Afghanistan or the fight against the so-called Islamic State (IS) in the Middle East. Christians, who are suffering under increasing pressure from Islamists in Africa, lack this kind of attention. The persecution does not apply to individual confessions, Catholics or Pentecostals, but to all Christians.
For Djadi it is of outstanding importance that Pope Francis intends to embark on a trip to Africa at the end of January, which will take him to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan. “This trip will draw the world community’s attention to the suffering of African Christians,” hopes Djadi. This means that this crisis, which has been neglected worldwide, is finally being recognized.
In the “World Persecution Index”, which “Open Doors” is now publishing for the 30th time, many positions are filled in a similar way as in previous years. North Korea, Somalia, Yemen and Libya are among the countries with a particularly bad situation for Christians. Things have improved in Iraq, one of a few countries with a significant difference from 2022.
Two details in the report are striking: With regard to Latin America, “Open Doors” notes that the situation of Christians in several countries has deteriorated significantly. Nicaragua appears in the list of 50 countries for the first time ever. In order to weaken the social influence of the church, church buildings are being attacked there and Christian stations are being closed.
In addition to Nicaragua, church representatives in Cuba and Venezuela are increasingly being hit by government repression.
Looking at China, “Open Doors” not only mentions the usual harassment of everyday community life, but also warns against a new approach at the international political level. China is currently pushing ahead with the formation of an international alliance to “redesign” human rights: freedom of expression, assembly and religion will no longer be included.
Author: Christoph Strack
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The original of this article “Deadly violence against Christians in Africa” comes from Deutsche Welle.