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Christians are “all marked men and women”, Nigerian bishop warns

By Katie Ascough - 21 February, 2020

Bishop Kukah of Sokoto (Credit: Aid to the Church in Need)

According to Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto, one of Nigeria’s most respected bishops, has said that “killing Christians” and “destroying Christianity” in northern Nigeria are top objectives for Islamist terror groups. He believes all faithful are now at risk.

The bishop said that Boko Haram had “exploited” an opportunity provided by both northern Nigeria’s “Muslim elite” and President Muhammadu Bahari’s regime to persecute Christians. He accused leading Muslims of systematic discrimination against Christians and spoke candidly about “the most nepotistic and narcissistic government in known history”.  

Bishop Kukah made these comments during a homily at the funeral of 18-year-old seminarian Michael Nnadi of the Good Shepherd Seminary, Kaduna, who was abducted on 8 January 2020 and subsequently murdered. The bishop said: “For us Christians, this death is a metaphor for the fate of all Christians in Nigeria, but especially northern Nigeria. For us Christians, it would seem safe to say that we are all marked men and women today.” 

Three other seminarians were kidnapped at Kaduna seminary with Mr Nnadi on 8 January; all except Mr Nnadi were released. The abductions came shortly after the apparent beheading of ten Christians on Christmas Day 2019 by a Daesh (ISIS) affiliate. On 20 January, Boko Haram killed Rev. Lawan Andimi, chairman of the Adamawa state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria.

Referring to the many years of inequality for Christians in the north, Bishop Kukah said in his homily: “This is the window that the killers of Boko Haram have exploited and turned into a door of death.”

Criticising the government for the prejudice against Christians, the bishop said: “[President Buhari’s] north has become one large graveyard, a valley of dry bones, the nastiest and most brutish part of our dear country … Are we to believe that simply because Boko Haram kills Muslims, too, they wear no religious garb? Are we to deny the evidence before us, of kidnappers separating Muslims from infidels or compelling Christians to convert or die?”

Pleading with the faithful not to retaliate, he said: “Are we angry? Yes, we are. Are we sad? Of course, we are. Are we tempted to vengeance? Indeed, we are. Do we feel betrayed? You bet. Do we know what to do? Definitely.

“Are we in a war? Yes. But what would Christ have us do? The only way He has pointed out to us is the non-violent way. It is the road less travelled, but it is the only way.”

The bishop thanked Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need for its support throughout seminarian Michael Nnadi’s ordeal and its aftermath. He said: “A staff [member] of Aid to the Church in Need, an organisation dedicated to the cause of the persecution of Christians around the world, called me frantically immediately after the news of the kidnappings of the seminarians went out … They remained with us emotionally”.

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