Nigeria: start of “ethnic and religious cleansing”

Source: FSSPX News

On January 6 an attack against Christians caused 17 deaths in the State of Adamawa in the Northeast.  Armed men opened fire on an assembly of faithful in mourning.  The victims had gathered in the house of one of five persons assassinated during a similar attack the previous evening.

The same day, 11 persons were killed by bullets in a Protestant church in Gombe, in northern Nigeria.  “It was around 7:30 p.m. … when several armed men burst in and opened fire on the assembly of the faithful,” pastor John Jauro explained to the French news agency AFP.  This series of murders is occurring after the expiration on January 4 of an ultimatum issued by a spokesman of the Islamist sect Boko Haram to the Christians to force them to leave the northern part of the country, where the majority is Muslim.  Boko Haram, which wants a strict application of Islamic law—sharia—throughout the country, has declared that it carried out these many assassinations;  one of its branches is suspected of being connected with Al-Qaida.

This sect had also claimed responsibility for the August 2011 suicide attack against the U.N. headquarters in the capital Abuja which had caused 25 deaths.  These destructive operations seem to have expanded with a wave of attacks last Christmas (49 deaths), aimed at the church of Saint Therese in Madalla, near Abuja, as well as a church in Jos, in the center of the country.

On December 26, 2011, during the Angelus prayer, Benedict XVI denounced the “absurd act” and assured his listeners that he was not forgetting all the persecuted Christians throughout the world.  On December 31 the Catholic bishops asked the Nigerian head of state, Goodluck Jonathan, for aid from foreign experts to help the security forces in their fight against Boko Haram.

On January 7 several lay leaders condemned the violent acts perpetrated against their communities, describing them as “ethnic and religious cleansing”.  The pattern of these killings “indeed makes us think of a systematic ethnic and religious cleansing”, declared Ayo Oritsejafor, president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).  At an emergency meeting the Catholic and Protestant religious representatives decided to determine the necessary means of “defending themselves against these senseless killings”.  “We have the legitimate right to defend ourselves, whatever the cost,” Ayo Oritsejafor warned;  he then added that current events recall the beginnings of the civil war in Nigeria that had struck the country in the late 1960’s, resulting in almost a million victims.

The head of state, Goodluck Jonathan, declared a state of emergency in the northern and central regions on December 31 and announced that the borders would be closed in the areas most affected by the violence.  (Sources : apic/ats/theguardian/cnn/afp/leparisien – DICI no. 248 dated January 13, 2012)