Christians are facing growing persecution around the world, fueled mainly by Islamic extremism. At least two million people, many of them Christians, have been displaced from their homes in the northern part of Nigeria, where the Islamist militant group Boko Haram has vowed to make life miserable for Christians.
Report says that Nigeria came first for the number of Christians killed for faith-related reasons, recording more than half of the 7 000-plus killings around the globe.
Sources report that Boko Haram began an insurgency against Nigerian authorities in 2009 and, in August 2014, declared an “Islamic state” in the area under their control in northeastern Nigeria. Boko Haram has killed approximately 6,000 civilians between 2009 and 2014, “at least 4,000 people were killed in 2014 alone” through “deliberate and indiscriminate attacks.”
Open Doors a global organization monitoring Christian persecution, conservatively estimated that 4,028 people were killed for their faith in 2015, there were also 198 church attacks. Figures recorded for the previous year were 2,484 killings and 108 church attacks.
The report focuses on persecution of Christians by three main groups: Boko Haram, Muslim Fulani herdsmen and the Muslim religious and political elite that dominates government in northern Nigeria. An estimated 30 million Christians in northern Nigeria form the largest minority in a mainly Muslim environment.
Lisa Pearce, chief executive of Open Doors UK and Ireland said, “In general, persecution of Christians is increasing, “and the rate of increase is accelerating.” The nature of persecution was also changing, she added. “It used to mean several years in a forced labour camp. Now it means watching your loved ones being beheaded.”
“For decades, Christians in the region have suffered marginalization and discrimination as well as targeted violence. This is happening not only in the Sharia states of the far north where the pressure of Islam is hard felt, but also in the non-Sharia middle belt states where Sharia has not been formally implemented,” she said.
Some powerful criminal groups see church as a target to showcase their barbaric executions.
Open Doors also reported violence inflicted on Christian farmers by Hausa-Fulani tribesmen in Nigeria, and approximately estimated that there have been more than 1 500 religiously motivated killings.
In the report, a Christian woman laments about her husband’s death and how they were maltreated by Fulani tribesmen.
“We used to live among the Fulani. We gave them no reason to kill us. The only reasons they had were religious reasons: they wanted to kill us because we are Christians,” she said.
General secretary of CAN, Rev Musa Asake, said the publication of the report was an “an opportunity to let the entire world know, especially the country, what the Christians in Nigeria have been going through.”