The World

Africa: Growing insecurity for Christians in some areas

At least 11 people killed in Mozambique, just weeks after the latest attack on Christian communities in Nigeria.

Antonino Piccione-September 23, 2023-Reading time: 3 minutes

Photo: Image of a church damaged by Islamist attacks in Mocímboa da Praia in 2021 ©CNS photo/Baz Ratner, Reuters

Another bloody day for Christianity on African soil. What happened is gruesome, to the point of provoking reflection on the reasons for so much violence. Throughout Africa - with few exceptions - Christians are under threat from Islamic extremism, which is intensifying under the pressure of a growing socio-economic malaise.

A group of at least 11 Christians was massacred by terrorists in northern Mozambique. According to information released by Brother Boaventura, a missionary of the Poor Brothers of Jesus Christ in the region, the massacre of Christians took place on Friday, September 15, in the village of Naquitengue, near Mocimboa da Praia, in the province of Cabo Delgado. Frequent attacks by the most violent fringes of Muslims have been taking place in the area since 2017. According to Brother Boaventura, the Islamic extremists arrived in Naquitengue in the early afternoon and rounded up the entire population. They then proceeded to separate Christians from Muslims, apparently on the basis of their names and ethnicity. "They opened fire on the Christians, riddling them with bullets," the missionary recounts. The attack was claimed in a statement by a local group loyal to the self-styled Islamic State.

The terrorists claimed to have killed eleven Christians, but the actual number of victims may be much higher. In fact, there are several people seriously wounded. Brother Boaventura reports that this is not the first time this inhumane method has been applied. The result has been widespread panic in the area. The attacks occurred at a time when "many people were beginning to return to their communities", leading to an increase in "tension and insecurity". As reported by the Bishop of Pemba, Monsignor Antonio Juliasse, the attacks in Cabo Delgado and the neighboring province of Niassa caused the internal displacement of about one million people and the brutal murder of another five thousand.

Exactly one year ago, Isis claimed responsibility for the attack on a mission in the Mozambican province of Nampula, where four Christians were killed, including the 84-year-old Comboni missionary Sister Maria De Coppi, who was shot in the head.

A few weeks ago, Kaduna State in north-central Nigeria was once again the scene of violence against Christians by terrorist groups. On Friday night, August 25, terrorists attacked the predominantly Christian community of Wusasa in Zaria and abducted two Christians, brothers Yusha'u Peter and Joshua Peter, staff members of St. Luke's Anglican Hospital in Wusasa.

"This happened shortly after the father of the two victims was also kidnapped and taken prisoner by the terrorists," Ibrahim told Morning Star News. "Terrorists have often made our area a target for attacks and kidnappings of our people. Recently, in fact, two other Christians from our community were killed in similar attacks."
According to local reports, the two brothers had fled to Zaria from Ikara, Kaduna State, after their father was abducted there. The abductions came after Jeremiah Mayau, a 61-year-old pastor of Tawaliu Baptist Church in Ungwan Mission, Kujama, Chikun County, was shot dead on August 23.

Rev. Joseph John Hayab, president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), also stated in a press release, "Terrorists stormed into a community in Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna and shot and killed Rev. Jeremiah Mayau, pastor of Tawaliu Baptist Church in Kujama. The incident occurred while the clergyman was working on his farm. It was a barbaric act.

Nigeria ranks first in the world in the number of Christians killed for their faith in 2022, with 5,014, according to Open Doors' 2023 World Watch List (WWL) report. It also ranks first in the world in the number of Christians kidnapped (4,726), sexually assaulted or harassed, forcibly married, or physically or mentally abused, and has the highest number of homes and businesses attacked for religious reasons. As in the previous year, Nigeria ranked second in the number of attacks on churches and internally displaced persons.

"Fulani, Boko Haram, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) militants and others carry out raids on Christian communities, killing, maiming, raping and kidnapping for ransom or as sex slaves," the WWL report reads. "This year, violence has also spread to the country's Christian-majority south..... The Nigerian government continues to deny that this is religious persecution, so violations of Christians' rights are carried out with impunity."

Present throughout Nigeria and the Sahel, the predominantly Muslim Fulani are made up of hundreds of clans of widely varying lineages that do not hold extremist views, but some of them adhere to radical Islamic ideology, the UK's All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom or Belief (APPG) noted in a 2020 report.

According to some Christian leaders in Nigeria, the Fulani attacks on Christian communities in Nigeria's central belt are inspired by a desire to forcibly take over Christian lands because desertification has made it difficult for them to sustain their herds.

The authorAntonino Piccione

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