By Sam Eyoboka
THE United Kingdom All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief has launched a new report on Nigeria, titled, Nigeria: The unfolding genocide?
The report launch took place at 1.00 p.m yesterday in the House of Commons and reportedly featured speeches from the Chair of the APPG, Jim Shannon MP, Co-Chair, Baroness Cox, and Rebecca Sharibu, the mother of Leah Sharibu who was kidnapped by Boko Haram. Her daughter is yet to be released.
The report was made available to Vanguard by US-based human rights lawyer, Emmanuel Ogebe who averted that the group takes a holistic look at the menace while also making recommendations.
The group also bemoans the growing power and influence of Islamist extremism across the sahel in the report.
It notes that “it is this power and influence that drive some Fulani herders to target Christians and symbols of Christian identities such as Churches.”
Chair of the group Jim Shannon MP, in his forward to the compilation, however, stated that “the views expressed in the report are those of the group and not that of the British House of Commons or House of Lords”
Shannon went on to state that though the Covid-19 crisis has been one of the most difficult and surreal challenges he had ever experienced in the UK, for “Christians living in Nigeria, extreme challenges are nothing new.
His words, “Shockingly for a Commonwealth country, Nigeria ranks 12th on Open Doors World Watch List 2020 of the countries in which Christians are most persecuted.
“By comparison, Syria ranks 11th and Saudi Arabia ranks 13th, with Iraq 15th and Egypt 16th. Nigeria is currently just one rank below ‘extreme’.
“Similarly, Sri Lanka ranks 30th, despite bombings of worshiping Christians on Easter Sunday 2019 which killed 259 and injured over 500.”
He identified Boko Haram as one of the main drivers of the persecution in Nigeria, noting, “They frequently abduct and kill those who refuse to conform to their extremist brand of Islam.”
Christian persecution: A few instances
He gave several instances of their onslaught in the last seven months as indicated in the findings.
He wrote, “On 22 December 2019, in Borno state, Boko Haram jihadists attacked two passenger buses and released the Muslim passengers.
“They then held back the Christians, separating the men and women. A pastor from Deeper Life Bible Church and two other men were killed on the spot, while the pastor’s relative and two humanitarian workers were abducted.
“On 26 December 2019, members of the Islamic State West Africa Province (a Daesh affiliate) released a horrific video, which showed the execution of 11 Christian prisoners – presumably to coincide with Christmas celebrations.
“Then on Christmas Eve, another horrific report came from a Christian village near the town of Chibok in Borno. Numerous Boko Haram jihadists driving trucks and motorcycles stormed into Kwarangulum, firing at residents, looting all they could, and burning their homes.
“The saddest account of all emerged on Boxing Day 2019 when a Christian bride-to-be and her entire bridal party were massacred while traveling in Adamawa state to prepare for her New Years’ Eve wedding.
“Father Francis Arinse, a diocesan communications director of Nigeria’s Catholic Church, reported that Martha Bulus, her sister Zainab and five others were ritually slaughtered. He told Catholic News Service that “they were beheaded by suspected Boko Haram insurgents at Gwoza on their way to her country home”.
He noted that though, peaceable Muslims, through collateral violence, can also become victims of this cruel Islamist religious ideology, “It is a destructive and divisive ideology which readily mutates into crimes against humanity and can pave the way for genocide.”
He noted further in the introduction that “Fulani herdsmen have resulted in the killing, maiming, dispossession, and eviction of thousands of Christians. It is difficult for us in the West to sometimes even imagine this kind of suffering, so we must recognise the stories of survivors.”
Describing an attack in Ngar village, he wrote, ”a survivor called Margaret said: “[My sister] was raped and her wrists cut off before she was shot through the heart. They took my brother, his wife, and all their six children, tied and slaughtered them like animals.”
“Similarly, Veronica, from Dogon Noma, said: “Another man attacked me with a machete twice, once to the neck and once to my hand. I was so confused. I lost consciousness. When I woke up, I saw my daughter on ground – she was dead – with my chopped finger in her mouth.” Antonia Aje, from Karamai, said: “I saw my brother-in-law’s body on the ground, hacked to pieces by a machete… Our home is destroyed. The hospital was burnt. They tried to burn the roof of the church by piling up the chairs, like a bonfire.”
Leah Sharibu, a symbol of collective struggle
He also brought to the fore the story of Leah Sharibu, whose mother he said, he was honoured to meet on a recent London visit.
On Leah he writes, “Two years ago, 14-year old Leah Sharibu was abducted by Islamist extremists from her school in Dapchi, north-east Nigeria. There are reports that she was enslaved, raped, and impregnated, giving birth to a child, and that she has been denied her freedom for refusing to convert to Islam as a precondition for her release.
“Leah represents the worldwide struggle both for freedom of religion and belief and the unacceptable violence directed at women and girls. There are thousands of Leahs held all over Nigeria, and across the world.”
He said the report is dedicated to Leah and the millions of others who suffer so unspeakably. “Its purpose is to explore the drivers of conflict and to highlight the seriousness of the situation and the level of injustice that Nigerian Christians face.”
Shannon then suggests in his remark that correction of the growing persecution of Christians in Nigeria should be a priority for the UK to help correct shortly.
Spare a thought for persecuted Christians
He also pleaded with his colleagues to spare a thought for those “Christians who face not only a pandemic but also threats of violence and persecution that we can’t imagine. I urge the UK and Nigerian Governments to do all that they can to bring an end to this violence and bring its perpetrators to justice.”
The report looked at all the key issues surrounding the activities of Islamic extremists in Nigeria. It also made recommendations on the menace.
The UK All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief (APPG) is a group of over 100 British Parliamentarians from different political parties and both Houses of Parliament. It exists to promote Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.”