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Why Are Christians Targeted In Nigeria?

In addition to all the economic problems of this nation, the persecution of Christians is added, the last attack in Nigeria left more than 20 Catholics dead .

Catholic Church Cross

Photo: Pexels

LatinAmerican Post | Moises Campos

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Leer en español: ¿Por qué en Nigeria los cristianos son blanco de ataques?

On June 6, during the celebration of Sunday mass, a group of armed men attacked a Catholic church in Nigeria, leaving 21 people dead (although initially estimated at over 50), including women and children. Due to the recurrence of this type of event in the African country, many wonder why in Nigeria Christians are targeted .

Origin of the problems in Nigeria

Despite Nigeria being one of the largest producers of oil and natural gas, the sum of various internal conflicts has prevented the country from reducing poverty and unemployment levels.

British colonialism caused great damage to the country, since it divided it into artificial borders that did not allow the creation of links between the various ethnic groups. In 1960 Nigeria gained British independence, but afterward, the Biafran civil war and a series of coups and military dictatorships have not allowed the country to fully recover, although democracy was achieved in 1999.

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Nigeria currently lives in misery and economic inequality , which has been a constant source of motivation for the rise and growth of terrorist organizations like Boko Haram and all other internal problems.

Is there religious persecution in Nigeria?

In Nigeria, the two main religions can be differentiated according to geographical areas, in the north the majority of the population is Muslim and in the south the Christian faith predominates.

Persecution for religion in Nigeria is unofficial, but it can be summed up as violent. In most of the north, Christians are under constant threat of attacks from Boko Haram, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), and Fulani extremists who carry out kidnappings and mass murder.

Although there is no citizen of northern Nigeria who escapes violence and threats, Christians are often targeted directly for their faith: ISWAP and Boko Haram want to root out the Christian presence in Nigeria, and Muslim Fulani militants direct their attacks on Christian villages.

In addition to this violence, Christians in some of Nigeria's northern states must also face discriminatory treatment as second-class citizens.

What are the factors that cause these types of attacks?

Many serious security problems have existed in various areas of Nigeria for years. However, the state of Ondo, where the massacre took place, is known to be one of the most peaceful in the country. In addition to this, no group has so far claimed responsibility for this fact.

For this reason, the possible reasons that are being investigated for this specific attack on Christians are those that for a long time have been the cause of the climate of violence that exists in the country. Among them, the following stand out:

Abuses by Islamic armed groups

The presence in the country for more than a decade of Islamist terrorist groups such as Boko Haram and its branch of the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), who have been responsible for many of the violent attacks that have occurred in several cities in the country, including attacks on churches and the kidnapping of schoolchildren.

They have caused the death of thousands of people and the displacement of millions. Although their actions have been carried out in other areas of the country, these groups are believed to have created sleeper cells in central Nigeria, which borders the southwest.

Attacks by criminal groups

For some time now, there have been attacks by armed groups in Nigeria known as "the bandits", who carry out mass kidnappings and then demand large ransoms. These events usually occur in the northern and eastern parts of the country, so it is strange that it has now occurred in the southwestern part of the country.

Conflicts between farmers and herders

The scarcity of grazing land in the country has forced nomadic pastoralist tribes to move across cultivated land and restricted areas. This has led to a permanent dispute between these herders and local farmers, so much so that in certain cases the states of the region have established their own vigilantes in order to expel these cattle herders, thus turning into a violent conflict.

Separatist ideas in the south

Latent separatist pressures from the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in the southeast and the Yoruba Nation in the southwest have further strengthened existing divisions and tensions in the country, leading in some cases to the authorities responding with excessive use of force.

Possible solutions for Nigeria

There is an intention to find actions that can be used as tools for the solution of the conflicts that generate the general violence that exists in the African country and that can justify the attacks on Christians in Nigeria . Here are some possible solutions:

  • Create an adequate political framework to develop programs aimed at reducing the levels of misery and unemployment, especially for the younger population.
  • Make use of current technological advances to militarily combat the criminal organizations that make life in Nigeria.
  • Direct efforts towards tasks that allow authorities to discover and decisively attack the sources of financing of terrorist groups.
  • Establish government plans focused on fighting administrative corruption and economic inequality.

This conflict is of great importance, so it will be of great importance to request the help and advice of the international community and multinational organizations in economic, logistical and technological matters.