Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 1, 2021 / 05:34 pm MT (CNA).- The Southern Poverty Law Center has again named mainstream organizations to its list of “hate groups” in the 2020 publication of its annual “Year of Hate and Extremism” report.
The report, which was released Feb. 1, purports to create an easy-to-search list of “hate groups” in the United States, broken down by state. While the list includes neo-Nazi, white nationalist, and chapters of the Ku Klux Klan, the 2020 list also includes mainstream organizations such as the Alliance Defending Freedom, C-FAM, Liberty Counsel, and the Ruth Institute.
These groups are listed under the header “Anti-LGBTQ”, as they are opposed to same-sex marriage.
The inclusion of the Alliance Defending Freedom as a “hate group” raised eyebrows in 2016, when the law firm was first listed. ADF has won numerous cases at the Supreme Court, including cases related to the HHS contraception mandate.
“ADF believes that all people are made in the image of God and that everyone is worthy of dignity and respect,” says an article on the firm’s website titled “Setting the record straight.”
“While ADF takes legal and policy positions that are informed by a biblically-based understanding of marriage, human sexuality, and the sanctity of life, we respect the human dignity of those with whom we disagree and win legal cases that also protect their freedom to express and advocate for their beliefs,” they said.
In 2017, when the Ruth Institute was classified as a “hate group,” the organization lost the ability to fundraise online. Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute, told the National Catholic Register that the institute was denied its application for the “Amazon Smile” program, which sends portions of purchases to charities in the program, because of the SPLC’s “hate” designation.
“The Ruth Institute’s primary focus is family breakdown and its impact on children: understanding it, healing it, ending it. If this makes us a ‘hate group,’ so be it,” Morse said in September 2017 in response to the controversy.
The SPLC was founded in 1971 and originally monitored persons and groups fighting the civil rights movement. It began to track racist and white supremacist groups like neo-Nazis and affiliates of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1980s. It also claims to monitor other “extremist” groups such as “anti-immigrant” and “anti-Muslim” groups.
The prospect that China’s Christian community might reach a staggering 300 million people by 2030 has unnerved communist leaders who fear “they’ll have to share power” as the Church increases in size and influence, according to Open Doors’ Ron Boyd-MacMillan.
Boyd-MacMillan, director of Strategic Research at Christian charity Open Doors, told the Express UK that the Chinese Communist Party, led by President Xi Jinping, is becoming increasingly concerned about the Christian population’s growth and is cracking down on religion as a result.
“We think the evidence as to why the Chinese Church is so targeted, is that the leaders are scared of the size of the Church and the growth of the Church,” Boyd-MacMillan said.
“And if it grows at the rate that it has done since 1980, and that’s about between 7 [percent] and 8 percent a year, then you’re looking at a group of people that will be 300 million strong, nearly by 2030. And, you know, the Chinese leadership, they really do long term planning, I mean, their economic plan goes to 2049, so this bothers them. Because I think if the Church continues to grow like that, then they’ll have to share power.”
Open Doors ranks China at No. 17 on its World Watch List of 50 countries where Christians are most persecuted. The organization notes that while the Church is enjoying “strong growth,” life for Christians is anything but straightforward.
The policy of “Sinicizing” the Church — or merging it with Chinese identity — is being implemented across the country as the CCP relies strongly on Chinese cultural identity to stay in power by limiting whatever it perceives as a threat to its control on society.
Churches are being monitored and closed down across the country, whether they are underground or part of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, the officially sanctioned Protestant church in China. The government has also imposed a ban on the online sale of Bibles.
China also uses high-tech surveillance to oppress and monitor believers. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, citizens have been forced to hand over their personal details to the CCP, allowing government officials to increase their surveillance campaign.
The crackdown on religion isn’t isolated to Christians, however, as Uyghur Muslims, a community that resides mostly in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China, have been subject to mass internment, forced labor, and forced sterilization at the hands of the CCP.
In response, the former Trump administration accused the Chinese government of human rights violations and issued sanctions on CCP members.
“After careful examination of the available facts, I have determined that since at least March 2017, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), under the direction and control of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), has committed crimes against humanity against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other members of ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang,” then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement released on Jan. 19, which the Biden administration has since removed.
On Friday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki did not answer whether the Biden administration would maintain the Trump administration’s declaration that China is committing genocide against its Uyghur population.
Psaki told reporters at a press briefing that Biden has “spoken before to the horrific treatment” of Uyghurs, but she will “check” what the Biden administration’s policy will be, RCP reported.
In efforts to strengthen adherence to the CCP and stifle dissent, China’s government imposed a national security law in Hong Kong in June. Since then, multiple pro-democracy activists have been arrested, and some sentenced to jail, accused of violating the national security law and subverting state power.
This month, pastor and author Francis Chan revealed that, after he planted three churches in the semi-autonomous region, Hong Kong authorities denied his visa, forcing him to return to the United States.
Chan and his family had moved from the U.S. to the Sham Shui Po neighborhood in Hong Kong in February 2020. In December, he shared that as a missionary in Hong Kong, he’s been struck by the climate of fear.
“I’ve noticed being in Hong Kong, obviously surrounded by Chinese people, unlike what I was in the U.S., there’s a lot of fear, even with those who call themselves Christians. They’re really afraid to die. And you need to understand there is seriously something wrong in your life if you don’t want to die,” he said.
The Apostle Paul desired to depart and be with Christ in Philippians 1:21-24, Chan said, but he “rarely” hears that kind of speech from those in Hong Kong.
“People are holding on to their lives, so afraid of death. It’s like we don’t really believe in His promises of something better. That’s why Paul says, ‘Of course I‘d rather depart and be with Him, but there are things I have to do on the earth.’ That’s the only reason why he would still want to be on the earth …
“Because he’s so in love with Jesus. ‘I just want to be with him,’” he said. “Do you think this way? Do you speak this way?”
At the beginning of this year Open Doors, an international Christian NGO, published its annual World Watch List 2021. This highlights countries in which Christians face high to extreme levels of persecution. Last year there were 74 countries on the list. This means that 340 million Christians had to endure some form of persecution only because of their convictions.
This is not news. It has been going on for years. What is becoming increasingly obvious, however, is that the Western media is ignoring it. Report after report is tossed onto shelves where they gather dust – while microaggressions in privileged workplaces are often front page news.
Persecution, intolerance and discrimination against Christians can take various forms and shapes — torture, imprisonment, threats, exclusion, abuse, abduction or legal threats.
Or even death. On average 13 Christians are killed every day because of their faith, mostly in Africa, especially Nigeria. This human rights tragedy is getting worse (it increased by 9 percent in 2019). And violence is not the only driving force of persecution. There are “squeeze factors” — political and social pressure — which are not as visible and easy to detect. These are often precursors of violence because they create the cultural legitimacy for it.
It is important to put these trends and numbers into context, as other religious minorities and majorities also face persecution. Nevertheless, when all is said and done, Christians belong to the most persecuted religion in the world — and hardly anybody talks about it. In fact, around 30 percent of the global population are Christians but 80 percent and more (an estimate by an Independent Review for the UK Foreign Secretary in 2019) of people who are persecuted because of their faith are Christians.
This figure highlights the immense disproportion between global persecution of Christians and media awareness. This does of course not mean that the suffering of Christians is more important than that of Jews or Muslims (or any other religious groups) but the anti-Christian bias in many Western media outlets is disconcerting.
Why is it that the West and the global political elite are turning a blind eye to a human rights tragedy of this scale?
To give an answer to this question, it is important to put it into the context of the growing intolerance, discrimination and marginalisation Christians are facing in Europe and the general political and cultural shift feeding into these hostilities.
Nominally, Christians are a majority in European countries. But the number of committed Christians, ordinary people who want to live their faith in all aspects of life, is significantly smaller. These Christians are a minority and they are more and more confronted with legal restrictions, social hostility and marginalisation.
European Christians must increasingly swim against the stream of a “cancellation culture”. At the Observatory on Intolerance & Discrimination Against Christians in Europe we track things like marginalisation of Christians, legal threats and vandalism of Christian symbols and buildings across the continent. Sometimes the stories are appalling but they seldom make headlines.
One small example of this societal chilling effect is that a growing number of university students in the UK, who support pro-life groups are facing hostilities and even exclusion of their university societies from campuses. (This trend is not affecting only Christians. A German survey revealed that only 18 percent are willing to voice private opinions on certain issues in public. These developments should not be underestimated.)
The European elite consensus seems to be that faith must be kept out of the public square, a position which grows out of an often militant secularism. At the same time, other forms of identity, not nearly as fundamental as one’s faith, are prioritised in public and political life.
There is a big danger in this inconsistency. It will eventually de-legitimise the very notion of “tolerance”.
“Tolerance” has been turned on its head in Europe. It is even being invoked as a reason for keeping mum about the bloody persecution of Christians in countries like Nigeria, Pakistan or China. On the one hand, Europeans are constantly exhorted to be ashamed of the “intolerant” Christian past; on the other they are told to be silent about the intolerant anti-Christian present. There is a widespread hostility among European elites towards committed Christians.
Ultimately Europe’s blindness towards the suffering of persecuted Christians in the global South stems from a refusal to acknowledge its own hostility towards Christians in Europe. There is a price to be paid for this. Intolerance and discrimination could step by step socially legitimise the use of violence, as is the case in some countries of the global South. The latest hate crime report from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe revealed that almost 700 violent hate crimes have been committed against Christians in Europe last year.
Our own research and analysis suggest that there are some places in Europe which are only marginally better for Christians than some of the 74 countries listed on the World Watch List.
What should be done? Awareness building and shifting the narrative are absolutely necessary. Additionally, for the sake of all, identity discourse should be focused in a way which treats a human being in a way which is not reduced to sexual orientation, skin colour, race, ethnicity, sex or political opinion.
Believers also need to convey what religious faith means for them. It is not just a hobby, lifestyle, or inherited trait. The negation of faith is an existential threat to a person’s ontological security. The right to a quest for transcendent truth must not be overruled by novel interpretations of human rights.
I would like to conclude by quotingSir James MacMillan, who has been called “the pre-eminent Scottish composer of his generation”:
“The ignorance-fuelled hostility to religion, widespread among secular liberal elites, is in danger of colouring society’s value-free ‘neutrality’ in ways that are both bland and naïve. They are also impractical, unattractive and, I suggest, oppressive. A true sense of difference, in which a genuine pluralism could thrive, is under threat of being reduced to a lowest common denominator of uniformity and conformity, where any non-secular contribution will automatically be regarded as socially divisive by definition.”
It’s about time that we stopped fretting about petty personal identity microaggressions and started denouncing the deadly aggression which is killing thousands of poor Christians in the rest of the world.
SANTA ANA, Calif., Jan. 11, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — This week, persecution watchdog Open Doors USA will announce the 2021 World Watch List, its anticipated annual ranking of the top 50 countries where it is most dangerous to be a Christian – and provide a surprising update on significant shifts in the landscape of Christian persecution worldwide. Open Doors USA President and CEO David Curry will address media and viewers at an online press conference at 10 a.m. ET, Wednesday, January 13th.
Research-based and highly-cited, the 2021 World Watch List report will reveal disturbing new trends including an opportunistic expansion of extremist violence from Nigeria into Sub-Saharan Africa, implications of technology’s increasing role in the persecution of religious minorities, and new data indicating one-in-eight Christians now suffer for their religious beliefs worldwide. The report will also reveal how and why after several years in an otherwise static position, China’s ranking on the list jumped significantly.
Open Doors USA President and CEO David Curry will also release the organizations’ research and findings on the specific impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on religious minorities worldwide. According to Open Doors, the confluence of COVID and technology in 2020 had ominous consequences across the globe, opening avenues for the spread of violence, discrimination and oppression against religious minorities, and gave rise to a surveillance state.
Curry will be joined by Dr. Chris Meserole, a fellow in Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution and director of research and policy of the Brookings Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technology Initiative. Meserole will share trends, projections and implications on religious freedom and censorship.
“The COVID pandemic has been used as a justification to exact religious terror. The interconnectivity of technology, in the hands of evil actors, has massive human rights implications for everybody with a smartphone,” Curry said.
US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, will also make a statement to viewers.
Open Doors’ findings will be illustrated by multiple firsthand narratives from recent victims of religious persecution, including a Nigerian healthcare worker widowed by Boko Haram, a former pastor in China’s Three-Self Patriotic movement church, a Uighur-American whose family is detained by China, and an Iranian Christian surveilled by secret police. The organization will issue a challenge Americans to pledge to pray for the persecuted by visiting ODUSA.org/PLEDGE.
Press may register for the 2021 World Watch List press conference HERE. For more information and interview scheduling, please email [email protected].
About Open Doors USA
For more than 60 years, Open Doors USA has worked in the world’s most oppressive and restrictive countries for Christians. Open Doors works to equip and encourage Christians living in dangerous circumstances with the threat of persecution and to mobilize the Western church to pray and advocate for the persecuted. Christians are one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world and are oppressed in at least 60 countries. For more information, visit OpenDoorsUSA.org.
Christian charity Release International is forecasting that persecution of Christians in China and India will increase in 2021.
The report says China has managed to avoid the scrutiny of the international community thanks to its strong trading relationships.
Chinese authorities “have bought freedom from censure due to trade with China. Many countries now regard this trade as essential to their own economies,’ International Release partners say.
“The government of President Xi Jinping is increasing its “clean up” of anything that does not advance the communist agenda. They appear to believe that they can achieve this by systematic opposition,” they continued.
Non-registered churches have been raided and closed in 2020 and increasing numbers of registered churches have been made to install CCTV cameras.
Earlier this month, Bob Fu, one of the leading advocates for persecuted Christian in China, faced bomb threats against his family in the US.
According to Mr Fu, the Chinese government has taken advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to strengthen restrictions on underground believers.
“The Chinese government is trying every way to take advantage of the virus by increasing the crackdown against Christian churches,” Mr Fu said. ‘It has accelerated particular campaigns, such as the forced removal of crosses,” he continued.
In India, there is also a growing intolerance towards Christianity. In September 2020, Hindu extremists gathered crowds of up to 3,000 people to attack Christians in three villages.
It is believed that prejudice against Christians increased following the landslide victory of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May 2019.
According to India’s Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), Christians suffered 225 incidents of religiously motivated violence during the first ten months of 2020 – compared to 218 incidents in the same period in 2019.
Chief Executive of Release International, Paul Robison said: “Our partners tell us that attacks are on the rise under Communism in China, Islam in Iran and Malaysia, and under militant Hinduism in India.
“Yet despite persecution and pandemic, we see clear evidence of the boldness, courage and trust in God of Christians under pressure around the world,” he concluded.
Over 42 million abortions occurred in 2020, far surpassing the totals of people who perished as a result of the world’s leading causes of death.
According to data compiled by the Worldometer, a reference website that monitors statistics on health, the global population, the use of resources and deaths in real-time, over 40 million abortions are performed worldwide annually.
The website tabulates statistics on abortion made available from the World Health Organization. The last available snapshot of the Worldometer as it appeared on New Year’s Eve, captured by the internet archive tool The Wayback Machine, reveals that more than 42.6 million abortions were performed worldwide in 2020.
By comparison, communicable diseases killed more than 13 million people worldwide in 2020. About 8.2 million people worldwide lost their lives to cancer while nearly 5.1 million people and 2.5 million people succumbed to death as a result of smoking and alcohol, respectively.
Other leading causes of death in 2020 included road traffic accident fatalities, of which there were nearly 1.4 million. Additionally, suicides are responsible for nearly 1.1 million deaths across the globe.
The total number of deaths worldwide in 2020, excluding abortions, was nearly 59 million.
But if abortions were counted as a cause of death rather than just another health statistic, the global death toll in 2020 would increase to more than 100 million.
The number of pregnancies terminated worldwide in 2020 is greater than the total number of people that succumbed to all other leading causes of death listed.
The year 2020 is not the first where the total number of abortions has surpassed the totals of people who died from the leading causes of death.
As previously reported, Worldometer reported that there were about 42.4 million abortions that occurred in 2019.
While abortion is the leading cause of death worldwide, it has also been the leading cause of death in the United States in recent years.
According to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, 862,320 abortions were performed in the U.S. in 2017. That same year, heart disease which is frequently cited as the leading cause of death in the U.S., took the lives of 647,457 Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
In 2017, the total number of deaths in the United States, excluding abortions, was 2,813,503.
Already in 2021, Worldometer shows that there have been over 435,000 abortions since the beginning of the new year worldwide as of Monday evening.
As abortion remained the leading cause of death worldwide in 2020, countries across the world elected to take drastically different public policy approaches regarding the polarizing issue.
Last week, Argentina’s legislature passed a bill allowing elective abortions to take place during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. Previously, the South American country only allowed abortions if a woman was raped or if her life was in jeopardy as a result of the pregnancy.
In October 2020, Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal, the country’s equivalent of a supreme court, ruled that a law permitting abortions based on fetal defects violated the country’s constitution. The ruling had the effect of making abortions legal in Poland only in cases of rape or incest or if the mother’s life or health were at risk.
A survey conducted last year by Ipsos found that support for abortion has dropped in most countries worldwide since Ipsos first began tracking the world’s attitudes about abortion in 2014. Worldwide, the support for abortion dropped from 72% in 2014 to 70% in 2020.
The strongest decline in support for abortion was recorded in Germany, where support decreased by 9%. Other countries where support for abortion dropped in that time period included Sweden, France, the United Kingdom and Spain. While Belgium, Australia, Canada and Argentina saw support for abortion increase from 2014 to 2020, no country saw as pronounced an increase as South Korea, where support rose by 20%.
Christian leader Dr Albert Mohler has raised the alarm over an attempt by America’s “most influential LGBTQ organization” to shape US Government policy.
Dr Mohler described the demands being made by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) in its briefing ‘Blueprint for Positive Change 2020’ as “alarming” and ‘a threat to religious liberty’.
The president of one of the country’s largest evangelical Bible colleges expressed particular concern about HRC plans to force Christian institutions to comply with “LGBTQ orthodoxy” or face losing government accreditation.
In an article published on his website, Dr Mohler warned that the HRC briefing unambiguously calls on President-elect Biden to adopt “a legislative agenda” in keeping with “the LGBTQ movement”.
The respected theologian criticised the report for seeking to eliminate “gender or sex as a meaningful category” and “remake humanity” in its demand for non-binary passports.
He also challenged the HRC view that the State Department should act to protect the “newly invented sexual liberties” of the LGBT lobby.
However, Dr Mohler said the most “sinister” policy proposal in the report was for Christian educational establishments to “meet the demands of the LGBTQ orthodoxy” or be denied government accreditation and funding.
Dr Mohler said: “the Human Rights Campaign is effectively calling for religious colleges and schools to be coerced into the sexual revolution or stripped of accreditation”.
He noted that requiring institutions to “get in line” with LGBT ideology would mean them having to abandon biblical authority and standards.
“This is an undisguised attempt to shut down any semblance of a Christian college or university that would possess the audacity to operate from a Christian worldview”, said Mohler.
“This comes with chilling specificity and clarity. We dare not miss what is at stake.”
Religious identity protected
In a separate development, a U.S. department has ruled that faith-based organisations who require staff to abide by a biblical code of conduct will not be discriminated against when applying for government contracts.
Commenting on the new law, U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia said: “Religious organizations should not have to fear that acceptance of a federal contract or subcontract will require them to abandon their religious character or identity”.
The Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs said the new rule recognised the “essential services” provided by religious organisations, including “feeding the hungry, supporting refugees, and educating our nation’s students.”
Washington D.C., Jan 8, 2021 / 02:11 pm MT (CNA).- The Trump administration finalized a rule this week allowing faith-based adoption agencies to receive federal funding regardless of their views on same-sex marriage.
In a final rule issued Jan. 7, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) revised a 2016 rule by the Obama administration that had conditioned federal grants on adoption agencies’ willingness to match children with same-sex couples.
The U.S. bishops’ conference had opposed the 2016 rule, saying that it “threatened to shut out faith-based social service providers, namely adoption and foster care agencies that respect a child’s right to a mother and a father.”
On Thursday, the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) praised the new rule for upholding the religious freedom of faith-based adoption and foster care agencies.
“There are hundreds of thousands of children in the foster care system, many of whom are eligible for adoption. Faith-based adoption and foster care providers play an integral role in serving these vulnerable kids,” said ADF Senior Counsel Zack Pruitt.
The new final rule, Pruitt said, “offers hope for children, more options for birth mothers, support for families, and increased flexibility for states seeking to alleviate real human need.”
Meanwhile, the old rule “discriminated against faith-based providers simply because of their beliefs about marriage,” he said. “That is not keeping kids first.”
In November 2019, the administration announced the proposed rule change, and said it would stop enforcing certain regulatory provisions that it determined were incorrectly interpreted by the Obama administration.
The HHS final rule issued on Thursday found that the old rule violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act “in some circumstances.”
Religious agencies around the country are having to contend with state and local ordinances demanding that they match children and work with same-sex couples.
The case of Catholic Social Services (CSS) of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, for instance, is currently before the Supreme Court; the city stopped contracting with CSS in 2018 unless it agreed to work with same-sex couples, regardless of the group’s beliefs on marriage.
ADF represents two faith-based adoption and foster care providers—Catholic Charities West Michigan and New Hope Family Services—in their court cases against state mandates.
When radical Islamists murder Christians in Nigeria, the government lists their deaths as having other causes, according to new report released by Nigeria’sInternational Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law.
The newly-released report indicates that deaths which the Nigerian government describes as random banditry or inter-tribal violence, actually result from radical Islamists attacking Christians, said Intersociety leader and founder Emeka Umeagbalasi.
Since 2009, 34,400 Christians have been murdered by radical Islamists, with 2,200 slain in the last year, the report says. Radical Muslims have also killed an estimated 20,000 moderate Muslims.
” … the most dangerous dimension to radical Islamism in Nigeria is its secret rise and spread and clandestine control of state power through Fulani Jihadism. In other words, the Nigerian Government’s major local and foreign policy direction, in clandestine practice, is ‘Fulani Jihadism’ — a policy pursued with utter alacrity and through different colors and disguises including pro-jihadist or radical Islamic policies and conducts. To cover up these, the present Nigerian government has also created an international machinery of falsehood and propaganda with well-funded or oiled international lobbying campaigns targeted at misinforming and misleading key and strategic international legislative, diplomatic and democratic institutions or bodies especially the EU, U.S., U.K. and Australia and their Parliaments; the Commonwealth and the U.N. and other internationally respected state and non-state actors,” the report states, in part.
“What the government here is doing is mapping out strategies. [It’s] a kind of script that’s given to media, local media and what have you,” Umeagbalasi said.
According to Umeagbalasi, Nigeria’s government tells media that Fulani tribe herdsmen travel south fleeing desertification and kill during conflicts with local farmers. The truth is that Fulani tribesmen travel south because they are radical Islamists looking for Christians to kill. They don’t attack Muslim villages, and traditional cattle-grazing methods don’t support enough cows to justify fatal conflicts with farmers.
The Nigerian government hides these attacks because it supports radical Islamists, Umeagbalasi asserted. President Muhammadu Buhari is a Muslim. He is also a member of the Miyatti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, which supports radical Islamic tribesmen, he added.
“Buhari sets aside the Constitution. He makes appointments without recourse to the Constitution,” Umeagbalasi continued. “In the Constitution, it is forbidden for the government to have a state religion. The Constitution made it clear that the composition of the armed forces of Nigeria should reflect regional or religious balancing, but the president is not listening to that.”
Instead, Buhari stacks the government with Muslims in positions of high authority, the Intersociety report said. Since Buhari’s 2015 election, Muslims have occupied 32 of the most important 39 positions in politics, security, lawmaking and the judiciary, even though Nigeria has even numbers of Muslims and Christians.
In June, five of Nigeria’s major Islamic groups made an alliance with each other to rise up against Christians. The killings of Christians in Nigeria aren’t random acts of violence, but a calculated attempt to conquer Nigeria for Islam, Umeagbalasi claims.
“The country is being taken over by the caliphate,” he said. “When they are done in the north, they will now come to the south.”
In response to the rise in attacks, Nigeria’s government has done little or nothing, the report says. They consistently under-report casualties of Christians. Sometimes, the government buries murdered Christians using Muslim funeral rites in an attempt to convince the world that Christians aren’t under attack.
“The Government of Nigeria clandestinely will direct the Army Commander or Commissioner of Police in charge of the incident area to organize a press conference denying the killing or linking it falsely to another cause such as ‘attack by bandits’ or ‘rival communal violence’ or ‘killing associated with kingship/chieftaincy/intra communal violence’ or ‘reprisal violence’ or ‘cult-related killing,’ or ‘killing arising from armed robbery and kidnapping,’ or ‘road accidents,’” the report reads.
Rather than sending the military or police to defeat heavily armed terrorists, the Nigerian government orders its forces to stand down and retreat if fired on, said Umeagbalasi. In some cases, the Nigerian Army allegedly participate in the killing of Christians.
Some Christians in the Army told him that commanders who tell their soldiers to fight terrorists get transferred to assignments where they can’t make the country safer.
“The leaders of Christian victim communities in Southern Kaduna told Umeagbalasi and Intersociety that their vigilantes mobilized to join soldiers in trailing the Fulani Jihadists after they have attacked Christians in their areas and escaped, had come back telling them that those soldiers told them not to shoot the Fulani Jihadists when sighted and under attack because there is existing instruction or order from above not to shoot or arrest them (Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen) and that any senior army or military officer that flouts or goes against the order or security code stands the risk of being set up and premature retirement or being transferred to heavily insurgency affected areas,” the report noted.
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)’s #RedWednesday event yesterday (25th November) featured testimonies from those living day by day with persecution, including kidnapped teenager Maira Shahbaz and Nigeria’s Archbishop Kaigama, who had one of his priests kidnapped earlier this week.
Maira Shahbaz, a 14-year-old Christian girl from Pakistan, described how she had been abducted, forcibly converted and made to marry against her will, as well as being “blackmailed, tortured and badly abused”.
Having escaped from her captor, she is now living in hiding.
She said: “The lives of me and my family are at risk in Pakistan. We are constantly receiving death threats. We are extremely scared and concerned about our security.”
Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Abuja, Nigeria, whose priest Father Dajo Matthew was kidnapped barely two days before, drew attention to the abductions suffered by the Christian community.
He highlighted the cases of Leah Sharibu – who is still being held by militant group Boko Haram – and kidnapped seminarian Michael Nnadi, who was killed by his abductors.
The archbishop also mentioned other threats, starkly warning that: “The Christian-dominated Middle Belt and some parts of northern Nigeria will have no future if groups like Boko Haram and allied terrorist groups continue to harass them.”
Also speaking at the event, which was chaired by Neville Kyrke-Smith, national director of ACN (UK), and Rehman Chishti, the former Prime Minister’s special envoy for freedom of religion or belief, were Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali and former MP Rob Flello.
ACN Head of Press and Information John Pontifex also gave an overview of the charity’s new Set Your Captives Free report, focusing on the unjust detention of Christians.