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Mixed reactions as ICC ranks Nigeria among worst persecutors of Christians in 2023



By Hannah Nathan, Warri

Pandemonium as the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN and the Jama’atu Nasril Islam, JNI, have been urged to exercise caution as the International Christian Concern, ICC, ranked Nigeria among the worst persecutors of Christians in its 2023 report.

The report depicts an alarming portrait of the dangers Christians face in the country, asserting that Nigeria might be the most perilous place for Christians worldwide.

“Nigeria is arguably the most dangerous place to be a Christian in the world today,” the report stated.

The ICC report detailed 55 attacks in Nigeria, resulting in the death of 549 Christians during a four-month period from March to July.

It also highlighted the torching of a Catholic seminary and the killing of a seminarian in Kaduna State, as well as the massacre of over 20 people in a Plateau State village by radical militants in August.

A significant part of the persecution is attributed to terrorist groups such as Boko Haram, which has been responsible for more than 38,000 deaths over the past 12 years, and the enforcement of Sharia law in 12 northern states.

“Whether the world acknowledges the plight of Nigerian Christians or not, the country has become a burial ground for Christians,” the report declared.

In addition to Nigeria, the ICC’s report also named nine other countries as oppressive towards Christians.. These include North Korea, India, Iran, China, Pakistan, Eritrea, Algeria, Indonesia, and Azerbaijan.

The report identifies patterns of religious suppression, forced labour, violence, and harsh legal restrictions among these nations.

The ICC report also identified six entities, including the Allied Democratic Forces and Al-Shabab, as some of the worst oppressors of religious freedom and minorities.

Furthermore, five individual actors, including Kim Jong Un of North Korea and Xi Jinping of China, were singled out as among the worst persecutors globally.

However, despite the severe conditions painted by the report, Nigeria has not been designated by the U.S. Department of State as a ‘Country of Particular Concern’.

The report underscores the need for international attention and action to address the widespread persecution of Christians in Nigeria and other listed nations.

“Nigeria is a country torn by violence. From large, organized terror groups to small, disconnected communal militias, the violence in Nigeria is endemic,” the report concluded.

Reacting to the development yesterday, Ibrahim Kufena, the Secretary of Jama’atu Nasril Islam, JNI, in Kaduna State, said it was not enough for the ICC to make such a statement against Nigeria.

According to him, the Christian body should show instances and the locations where such alleged persecutions were made to enable them answer the ICC properly.

“That’s a general statement, let them be specific. They should give instances, places and so on, if not they are just trying to bring misunderstanding between us, if we react.”

Also reacting, some church leaders described the situation as ‘unfortunate’ but called for caution in approaching such reports.

While the Anglican Church expressed concerns regarding external attacks on the Church and emphasized that Christians must not despair, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, urged church leaders to reconsider their indiscriminate visits to government officials.

They stressed that such visits could divert attention from more pressing issues affecting Christians, such as the ongoing persecutions in various religious communities.

However, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, harped on the importance of considering the broader context surrounding religious persecution in the country.

Reflecting on these issues, Simon Dolly, the Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), North-Central Zone, called on church leaders to refocus their efforts on addressing pressing issues.

“The persecution of Christians in Nigeria is an unfortunate circumstance that requires immediate attention. Church leaders need to reconsider their indiscriminate visits to government officials as it diverts attention from the pressing issues that affect Christians and the Church,” said Pastor Dolly.


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