Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Where There Is No Religious Liberty: Nigeria Bishop Decries Lack of Protection for Christians

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos: "Those young people killed at the university represented the hope of our country"

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, head of the Catholic Church in Nigeria, said yesterday that his nation's government has refused to take the actions needed to protect Nigerian Christians from attacks by Islamic terrorists.

Speaking April 30, a day after 21 people were killed and 20 others injured in coordinated attacks on Sunday services at a university campus in Kano and a Protestant chapel in Maiduguri, the archbishop said the incidents showed "that government security is not working," according to Catholic News Service. The attacks targeted two lecture halls in Bayero University Kano that were being used for Christian services. According to reports, gunmen opened fire on people fleeing initial explosions in an attack that lasted more than 40 minutes.

Gunmen later attacked a Church of Christ in Nigeria congregation in Maiduguri, killing five people, including the pastor, shortly after the service had begun.

"The government is not able to cope with the security situation, and we feel quite apprehensive as a result," he told the British section of Aid to the Church in Need, a pontifical foundation that helps persecuted Christians, in an April 30 telephone interview.

"Why the government cannot identify the people involved baffles the imagination," said the archbishop. "We pay tax money and we have a right to know what is being done about the problem.

"Those young people killed at the university represented the hope of our country. It defies all logic. They were people trying to build a better country," he added.

His sentiments were echoed by Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja.

"At first we were ready to be patient with the government when it was saying that this kind of Islamic terrorism is new," he told Aid to the Church in Need April 30.

"They have had adequate time to learn how to deal with this situation, gathering intelligence about those directly involved and bring them to book," he said.

"It has become clear that we have a weak government that has put together a whole lot of compromises that means that the action that should be taking place is not taking place," the archbishop added.

No one has claimed responsibility for the April 29 attacks, but the Islamist group Boko Haram -- whose name means "Western education is forbidden" -- is suspected to be behind them because it is already responsible for the deaths of at least 450 people in 2012 alone, according to Aid to the Church in Need.

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