Nigeria: The Church Denounces the Persecution of Christians

March 23, 2023
Msgr. Matthew Man-Oso Ndagoso

In northern Nigeria, the Catholic hierarchy is denouncing the abuses, of which Christians are the first victims, committed by the Islamist. In some states, the authorities have imposed sharia and go so far as to prevent Christians from teaching and practicing their faith.

“The Christian community lives in a state of servitude.” The observation of the Archbishop of Kaduna is bitter. In this diocese located in the center of Nigeria – as in those of Kano, Sokoto, Katsina, and Zamfara further north – Christians are literally “persecuted,” explains Bishop Matthew Man-oso Ndagoso.

Because in the Muslim majority areas of Kaduna State, Sharia has been imposed by the local authorities: “We can no longer teach Christian children the religion of their baptism. … The government uses public money to teach Islam. This is a flagrant act of discrimination aimed at weakening the morale of the Christian community.”

In this context, building a church is a miracle: “In sixty years, no building permit has been granted to build a church, except in the early 1990s, thanks to a governor who was of the Catholic faith. So, in this part of our country, Christians are not free to practice their faith as required by the Constitution: because if one cannot obtain land to build a place of worship, that proves that one is not free,” laments the Archbishop of Kaduna.

Not to mention the direct attacks of which Christians are the privileged target: “People are kidnapped, some are displaced and can no longer return to their communities; we now have to deal with the situation of those who have been exiled from their ancestral villages and who have become refugees in their own country,” Msgr. Ndagoso denounced.

The intervention of the Archbishop of Kaduna is part of a webinar organized on March 8, 2023. On this occasion, two seminarians kidnapped by the terrorist organization Boko Haram on January 8, 2020, took the floor in order to tell the chilling story of their captivity: “The Islamists whipped us every day, without any mercy.”

“In the evening, they asked us to moo like cows, or bleat like sheep, just to entertain them. During meals, they served us rice in a very dirty container that they used to fill their motorbikes with fuel,” says Fr. Pius Tabat.

Another seminarian, 18-year-old Michael Nnadi, was killed for asking his captors to repent and turn from their evil ways. After his assassination, Boko Haram militiamen told their prisoners that they would soon meet the same fate:

“That night was one of the longest of my life. When morning came, they gave us phones to call our parents to say goodbye. We did it and we returned to the tent putting our lives in the hands of God,” remembers Pius Tabat with emotion.

“But we weren't killed that day,” said the seminarian who was to be released a few days later: “I don't think Michael's death was a coincidence; it was as if he had paid the price for our freedom,” said the survivor.

For his part, Bishop Ndagoso wants to hope that the new Nigerian President Bola Tinubu – whose election on February 25 is still contested by the political opposition and the Catholic episcopate – will in some way be able to get the country out of terrorism, given his ethnic origins: he is a Yuruba, a tribe where Muslims are generally moderate:

“In Yuruba land, you can find within the same family, Catholics, Muslims, Protestants. Tinubu's wife is a Christian and she still practices her faith in her husband's house. So, in this context, we still have hope,” says the Archbishop of Kaduna.

On March 18, 2023, Nigerians were again called to the polls to choose their governors: an election whose results will be crucial for the future of Christians in the north of the country.