Thousands of Christians in north-east Nigeria displaced by Boko Haram’s insurgency now face discrimination and harsh treatment – including sexual exploitation – by government officials, reports Global Christian News (GCN).
While many thousands have been killed, others sought refuge in neighbouring Cameroon or in the relatively safe states in the Middle Belt and southern Nigeria. Still thousands of others, trapped in camps run by the government, are often forced to convert to Islam even to get food, GCN points out.
“Whenever supplies come, the sharing is chaotic. The officials would make us queue and usually fights break out as people struggle to jump queues, and if you are a Christian you are harassed and insulted. ‘Get out infidel!’ is usually what you hear all the time,” said Margaret, who was forced to leave the government-controlled NYSC camp in Maiduguri.
Christian women are particularly vulnerable, she noted, saying: “Muslim men come in their cars every evening and women are ‘arranged’ for them by some camp officials and middlemen who have access to the camps.”
She said prostitution is rife in the camps. “Our young vulnerable Christian teenage girls are being destroyed by men,” she said. “They deceive the girls, get them pregnant and divorce them. Many times the Muslims come to meet us [women] and say they want to marry us and take us away from the suffering. They say we should simply convert to Islam and all will be okay.”
The report also highlighted other forms of discrimination against Christians, notably in the reconstruction efforts. The governor of Borno state claimed that 20 churches have been rebuilt, but according to some Christian leaders, the picture the government is trying to paint to show its magnanimity is false.
“As you drive into Maiduguri from Damaturu, please do observe for yourself how many villages have been rebuilt by the Borno government. In each of the villages, the government will build a large mosque, whether that mosque existed before or not,” one pastor said.
GCN’s report echoes previous allegations of discriminations faced by Christians IDPs.