Islamic Persecution of Christians in Nigeria, Possible Solutions & the Need for the Church to Rise Up

The persecution of Christians around the globe is not talked about enough. But in light of the recent events hat happened in the South Western Nigerian town of Owo, Ondo State and the killing of Deborah Yakubu in Sokoto State for blasphemy, we are again faced with this debate, many have preferred to overlook.

Aside Western media houses choosing to sweep the evils Christians living in Islamic countries suffer by either lying about it or under-reporting it, Christians are also either averse about it because of the sensitive nature of the topic, or have become pacifistic about it because nothing is being done to address the issue.

Funeral service for the attack victims.

However, while many Christians may be ignorant of their religion, extremist Muslims are not ignorant of Christianity. To them, Christianity is a potent enemy, opposed to their tenets and must therefore be vanquished. Hence the violent attacks on Christians all over the world, including rape. This is called Christophobia, a portmanteau of Christianity and phobia.

Christophobia is anti-Christian sentiment which constitutes opposition or objections to Christians, the Christian religion, and/or its practices.

Islam and its sympathisers will want to tell you there’s such a thing as Islamophobia also, in order to counter the genuine Christophobia.

But the very term Islamophobia is itself misleading. A phobia is an irrational fear of something. In the case of Islam, however, it often makes practical sense to be afraid.

As a former Muslim said, “I have genuine fears about a religion that advocates the murder of its apostates and victimizes its own members, especially innocent women and children.”

Debris at the attacked St. Francis Church, Owo.

Moreover, many people who have been labeled as “Islamophobes” do not exhibit signs of a phobia. Many are individuals who bring up relevant critiques against the institution of Islam.

Having a well-reasoned and valid complaint is not the same as bigotry or fear, and labeling it as such is dismissive towards the greater discussion. By labeling its detractors as bigots and racists, Islam and its apologists are suggesting that Islam cannot stand up to scrutiny on its own. This is to say the term Islamophobia itself is an oxymoron.

So, Muslims are well aware, for instance, of our important Christian holidays and in the church we have many of them.

Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo visiting the site of the Owo Church attack.

In the Christian church, we have something called Pentecost, which is just one of our holidays, where we celebrate the beginning of the church, when the Holy Spirit came down upon the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And the church went out to preach the good word and the Gospel. Now, this to us as Christians, is an incredibly important holiday that we celebrate across the world. And while those in the West are fortunate enough to just pop into a church to celebrate days like Pentecost with no fear of being lynched by an Islamic mob, other areas of the world, such as Nigeria, such as the Middle East, such as Indonesia, there are persecutions that are put in place where Christians are identified and attacked, specifically on those holy days, whether it’s Pentecost, whether it’s Easter, whether it’s our entire Holy Week and Easter, whether it’s Christmas, regardless, Christians are identified and attacked. There are many people, many groups who want to see the downfall of Christians. And I’m not talking politically, I’m talking in terms of life and death.

And so it was that on this year’s Pentecost Sunday, as members of St. Francis, Owo, Ondo State, were finishing mass, armed men with AK-47s and improvised explosives came in, identified the three exits of that church, before blowing down the doors with explosives. Over 100 were killed.

They then had men stand on those other two exits, and as the over 100 worshipers tried to exit the building in midst of the confusion, many were shot and killed. There was blood on the pews and on the pulpit, all over the church, on the statues on the Bibles, it was a bloodbath. So much so that the media, those who did report it, mostly those in Nigeria, and friendly to the Christian church, could not show the images.

Why could they not show the images? Because they are too horrific, that to do so would horrify many people, and absolutely traumatise people. I want to make this clear. At this particular mass at that St. Francis Church in Owo, there were women, there were men, and there were children, all of whom were killed by these extremists.

A Nigerian woman crying.

Now, why do they pick these days to carry out these injustices? They do it because it is an attack on Christianity in particular. And it’s not coincidence that they pick Easter. And it’s not coincidence they pick Pentecost. They wait for particular Christian days, the holidays of the Christian church, and they attack then. This is a specific and targeted attack on Christians across the world.

It is said that on average, there are 11 Christians who are killed every day, across the world for their faith.

We need to not close our eyes and pretend everything is fine because everything is not fine. We are constantly under attack. To give another example, Sri Lanka not long ago, during the Holy Week of Easter, had an occasion where 253 Christians were massacred because of simultaneous attacks on churches and hotels were Christians were thought to have gathered as 253 people.

Now we compare this to recent events. We look at what happened in America. We look at what happened in Texas, where 18 people were killed, children in a high school. And that is a travesty. No doubt, a travesty. But 50 People in Nigeria were just killed. Where do you hear about that in the media? You don’t hear about it at all. Why? Because it is not politically expedient to talk about it. There is no reason for politicians in the West to talk about Christians dying on mass in in nations outside of the Western world.

But we can’t continue depending on the West to speak for us. We must speak up for ourselves.

There were members of the congregation that were kidnapped. So not only do you have Christians that were killed and their blood spilled in the church, you have a situation where those who weren’t killed are now being held hostage. There’s unfortunately, in places like Nigeria, and places like Sri Lanka, in places like the Middle East, in Palestine, it is a frequent occurrence.

I want to give you some statistics to demonstrate how bad this actually is, in the Middle East, in places like Palestine, only 1.5% of the population identify as Christian in Palestine. If you look at places like Iraq, they used to have 1.5 million Christians in Iraq. Now, only 120,000 or so identify as Christians in Iraq, that’s a 10 fold decrease.

Why was there a 10 fold decrease in the number of Christians in Iraq, that’s from 2003 to Now, Christians have just been absolutely eradicated in places in the Middle East. There is an outstanding persecution of the Christian faith in places like the Middle East, and in places like Nigeria. Christians need to wake up to this issue.

The Call to Arise

Christians are the ones standing up against this, even though they may be few. And we do so in our way. We behave the way we conduct ourselves within the church. This is a call to the Nigerian Church to lay aside petty doctrinal differences and unite, stand up for your brothers either in faith or in humanity. Unite against this extremism and commit yourself to speaking against it.

Become familiar with the oppression that Nigeria is undergoing in many places in Northern Nigeria where Christians are a minority and in the South of Nigeria where they are a majority, at the hands of extreme Islamic fundamentalism in Boko Haram and the Islamic State, West Africa Province(ISWAP), which has been growing over the last few years. These groups specifically find and attack Christianity, because Christianity is the biggest threat to his extremism. Well, if you don’t stand with the church, there will be no one left to stand with you if the church ever dies through this persecution. So take a stand. The days of being pacifistic are over. President Muhammadu Buhari will not speak for you. Neither will the National Assembly dominated by Muslims.

So here are practical things Christians can do to arrest the evil of Christian persecution:

  • The first thing that you can do if you are a Christian, is not fall into the trap of thinking that the only thing that you can do is pray. That’s the problem with the Christian church. Is that we face a problem and our instinct is simply to offer up it offering up in prayer, and do nothing more. There is something else that you should do as much as praying. And that is talk about the persecuted church. Talk to your friends about the persecuted church, talk to your work colleagues about the persecuted church, talk to your enemies, about the persecuted church, talk to your family, about the persecuted church. One of the reasons why this is not a bigger issue is because not enough of us are talking about the plight of Christians.
  • The second thing as Christians that we can do to help the persecuted church is obviously support those organisations that are helping persecuted Christians, such as Barnabas Fund, Release International, Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors. But recognise that these groups are the equivalent of sticking a plaster on a stab wound whilst the victim is bleeding to death. We Christians must be much more radical in our ambition for the persecuted church. And that means, as Christians, we should be committed to the idea.
  • Christians, what we must do is commit ourselves to the ambition of creating independent Christian states in regions of the world where Christians are being persecuted. An independent trustee and state in the Middle East, a separation of Nigeria, north from south, an autonomous state in India, a free current state in Burma. We Christians must have the ambition to establish independent Christian states in the Islamic world like it was done in South Sudan who broke away from the Sudanese.
  • Next thing that we must do as Christians is to recognise that our great failing as Christians is that we don’t organise above the level of the individual congregation. We organise at the individual level. We organise at the group level within the congregation, and we organise at the level of the congregation, but we don’t organise as networks of congregations working together in common cause that is our sociological weakness, and we must address it.
  • Next. As Christians, we must accept that the legitimate use of force is part and parcel of the solution to the persecuted church. I want to be clear, I’m not talking about illegal use of force. I’m talking about legitimate use of force or sanctioned by state authorities or legally recognised bodies to defend persecuted Christians.

So in conclusion, Christians need more than your prayers, those Christians need more than platitudes. Those Christians who have been bombed in their churches, having their women kidnapped, require us to have a greater response to their persecution. I mean it is unrealistic to expect any solution to the persecuted church not to include the legal sanctioned legitimate use of force and arms to defend them from their persecutors.

A good example of the violence that I’m talking about and how Christians can act was on show for 18 years in South Sudan. Muslim jihadists, waged a war against Christians there, killing 2 million Christians and enslaving Christian women, and they are still enslaving black children today, in the Sudan.

The South Sudanese Christians raised up an army to fight against the jihadists of North Sudan. Not only did they defeat this jihadists movement, but they also won for themselves Independence.

That is the way forward!

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