At the International Religious Freedom Summit, held in Washington, D.C., on January 30–31, Bishop Wilfred Anagbe of Nigeria shared details of the worsening persecution of Christians in the country. He also spoke on how the Christian presence in Nigeria is “gradually and systematically” being reduced by radical Islamists through “killings, kidnappings, torture, and burning of churches.”
In the last decade alone, since taking up the leadership of his diocese in Nigeria’s central Benue state, Bishop Anagbe shared that he has lost 160 churches because of attacks that he said are being perpetrated by members of a Muslim tribe known as the Fulani.
As part of his presentation, Bishop Anagbe showed several pictures of brutally murdered babies, children, men, and women, many of whom have their bodies torn apart or heads and limbs bearing the marks of machete blows, all martyred for their faith by the Fulani.
Bishop Abdallah Elias Zaidan, head of the Maronite Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles, was also present at the summit with Bishop Wilfred Anagbe. Zaidan said the U.S. bishops are concerned about the persecution of the church in Nigeria.
As chairman of the U.S. bishops’ International Justice and Peace Committee, Bishop Abdallah Zaidan told sources that the bishops have been keeping track of the persecution but that “it was good to hear firsthand from people living on the ground about the situation.”
“They say a picture is like a thousand words and the picture(s) we saw reveals a lot of things, the atrocities, the difficulties, and challenges our brothers and sisters live (through).”
Zaidan said that the Church in Nigeria “definitely” needs all kinds of support, “not just financial but political support and also solidarity as a Church.”
Though he mentioned that the Catholic Relief Services is already working to help alleviate the suffering in the country, Bishop Zaidan also said that based on the testimony of Anagbe and other witnesses, the U.S. bishops “will assess” how to best respond to the crisis.
“We will go back and look at it and study it and see what’s the best avenue on how to handle situations like this,” Zaidan said.
“We’re blessed to live in this country where religious freedom is somewhat highly respected compared to other countries in the world. However, this is where we become lax. It’s good to open our eyes and our hearts and minds to all our brothers and sisters around the world and each one of us, in his and her own capacity, see what we can do for others, to think about them, support them, pray for them,” bishop Zaidan said.