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World News

Nigeria Christmas massacre: Bishops say religious element ‘downplayed’

by Heather Preston

The Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) welcomed the European parliament’s recent condemnation of attacks against Christians in Nigeria but criticised the “downplaying” of religious persecution in the conflict.

On 23 -25 December 2023, Muslim Fulani militants launched an attack on over 160 villages across Plateau State, Nigeria, in which at least 200 Christians lost their lives.

European bishops have expressed grave concern after the EU resolution acknowledged “the role of climate change, competition for scarce resources, and the disappearance of effective mediation schemes” as key factors in the conflict, but failed to adequately highlight the persecution Christian communities have experienced.

“The resolution downplays the religious dimension of the conflict,” COMECE says, emphasising that the attack on the Christian majority villages was not an isolated incident.

In January 2024, 19 people, including two priests were killed after suspected Fulani herdsmen opened fire at a Church in Benue State, Nigeria in an attack described as “horrendous, barbaric and satanic” by Nigerian bishops.

Fr. Manuel Barrios Prieto, General Secretary of COMECE said: “environmental and economic pressures cannot sufficiently explain the ferocity of the attacks and their coordinated and systematic patterns committed by Fulani Islamist terrorists.”

According to a 2023 intersociety report, Islamist militants have killed upwards of 52,000 Christians in Nigeria since 2009.

“The perpetrators of these crimes, Islamist extremists, including jihadists, enjoy impunity, as they are rarely prosecuted and condemned,” COMECE says. 

The bishops have expressed “grave concern” over the persecution of Christians there and have urged EU institutions to give a more “decisive and robust response” to Islamist terrorism in the African country.

“It should no longer be tolerated that all these crimes remain unaccountable. The Nigerian government has a responsibility to protect its citizens, including systematically persecuted Christian communities.”


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