Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, is visiting the United Kingdom this week to discuss trade and investment amid increased criticism from church leaders back home who say the government is effectively enabling attacks on Christians in the country.
“They [the government] are using the levers of power to secure the supremacy of Islam, which then gives more weight to the idea that it can be achieved by violence,” Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto told the charity Aid to the Church in Need earlier this month. “With the situation in Nigeria, it is hard to see the moral basis they have to defeat Boko Haram.”
The bishop spoke out after the beheading of 10 Christians by the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) on Christmas day and an attack by the Islamist group Boko Haram on Christmas eve in which seven people were killed.
“The only difference between the government and Boko Haram is Boko Haram is holding a bomb,” the bishop said, adding the Buhari government had created the environment in which Islamist groups like Boko Haram could thrive.
“It is not a lie that this government is favouring Islam,” said Rev. Gideon Para-Mallam, a prominent evangelical leader in Nigeria, pointing at how Buhari’s political appointments are all Muslim while Nigeria’s population is a nearly even balance of Christian and Muslim.
There have been too many unfulfilled promises, he told Nigeria Everyday. Para-Mallam has been an advocate for the release of Leah Sharibu, a Christian teenager who was abducted by Boko Haram almost two years ago and is believed to still be detained by the group. Last year Buhari promised her family he would do all he could to bring her back. “If the government is truly committed to ending some of these impunities, the crises and the attacks on Christians would have stopped, a lot more could have been done to achieve this,” said the pastor.
Nigeria is 12th on Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian, which was released this week. Just as in 2019, Nigeria’s score for violence was at maximum, due to attacks by Islamist Fulani militants, Boko Haram and other armed groups. Some 1,350 Nigerian Christians lost their lives in the violence.