Millions of Nigerian Christians have taken to the streets in protest against an increase of violence perpetrated against their religious community.
The central march took place in Lagos and was led by Enoch Adeboye, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG). Walking for three miles and followed by an enormous crowd, Adeboye could be seen holding a placard that declared: “All Souls are Precious to God.”
Prior to the march, the RCCG had been involved in a three-day fast organised by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in response to a spike in attacks against the Christian community at the hands of Islamic terror groups. The Lagos march was just one among several held across 28 of Nigeria’s 36 states - CAN estimated that a total of around 5 million people turned out for the demonstrations.
“Though we have protested before, this event took a new dimension,” CAN president Samson Ayokunle told Christianity Today.
“With one voice, we said ‘no’ to killings, ‘no’ to security negligence, and ‘no’ to the persecution of Christians in Nigeria. It is a wake-up call to the government.”
President Buhari has faced fierce criticism for his lack of decisive action against the various Islamist groups that have been wreaking havoc against the Christian community over the past several years.
“Lord, have mercy on Nigeria, let there be peace and security,” Adeboye prayed during the huge event. “God sees all things and knows where the terrorists are hiding.
“We pray that God send his light to Nigeria and expose the evildoers in the country.”
There have been a number of recent attacks that have sparked large scale media interest in the plight of Christians in Nigeria. Indeed, just last month a Brethren pastor named Lawan Andimi was beheaded by Boko Haram fighters shortly after being seen in a hostage video in which he stated that he had resigned his fate to “the will of God”. It was widely reported that the terrorists executed Andimi because he refused to denounce his faith in Christ.
Terrorist attacks, mostly perpetrated by groups like Boko Haram and Islamist Fulani herdsmen, have resulted in the deaths of over 100 people in January alone. In December, the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), led by Baroness Cox, released a report estimating that some 1,000 Nigerian Christians were killed over the course of 2019.
The latest march comes as the British Government announces it will be focusing its attention more specifically on promoting global religious freedom and tackling the scourge of Christian persecution. The newfound determination to address the issue follows the publication of an extensive report by the Bishop of Truro into the persecution of Christians.
In the 2019 report, which was commissioned by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Bishop Philip Mounstephen lamented that the scale of violence perpetrated against Christians across parts the Middle East and Africa has led many experts to believe that followers of Jesus are suffering a “genocide”.
Elsewhere in the report, Mounstephen urged that the UK government should “name the phenomenon of Christian discrimination and persecution and undertake work to identify its particular character alongside similar definitions for other religions”.
The Bishop also recommended that the government impose sanctions on countries that turn a blind eye to the violence taking place under their noses, as is suspected to be the case with President Buhari.
Backing up Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s vow to “stand with Christians everywhere”, in a statement, the Foreign Office said: “We are deeply concerned at the severity and scale of violations of freedom of religion or belief in many parts of the world. That’s why the Bishop of Truro was asked to review what the FCO can do to better support the plight of Christians and we are committed to implementing his recommendations.
“We believe that training which develops an understanding of religion, and its role within society, is hugely important and are in the process of defining a new training package that will reach all officials who need it, within the FCO and across government.”
Speaking to Premier Christian News, conservative politician and leading advocate for religious freedom, Sir Desmond Swayne MP, said: "It is important as part of our renewed post-Brexit global outreach, to project our values internationally in order to secure a safer and more prosperous international order.
"Religious persecution is a growing problem and Christians are the most persecuted of all religions. It was in response to this problem that the Bishop of Truro was commissioned to investigate and make recommendations regarding the performance of the FCO. I am very glad that the Government has accepted all his recommendations."