The Blog

The Nigerian Problem: Politics and Religious Persecution

The coldblooded murder of innocent civilians - no matter the nationality or circumstances - is always utterly appalling.

Following last week's shocking events, some British journalists have questioned why the Western media appeared to have seemingly ignored the massacre of innocent civilians in the remote Nigerian town of Baga, in Borno State, whilst heavily covering the tragic events which simultaneously unfolded in Paris last week.

The coldblooded murder of innocent civilians - no matter the nationality or circumstances - is always utterly appalling.

Whilst I welcome the renewed interest, Western journalists have still not yet grasped the issues at the heart of the matter in Northern Nigeria - politics and religion.

This week a post on behalf of the UK charity Open Doors, highlighted a report which confirmed that more than 2,000 Christians had been killed in Nigeria in 2014 - more than anywhere else in the world.

Whilst the tragedies of Baga and Chibok have reached the newspapers of America and Europe, what has not been understood is the sectarian nature of many of these attacks, and the wider political climate of religious persecution in Northern Nigeria.

Many in the Northern Christian community believe Boko Haram is a symptom of a wider agenda of Islamification promoted by a hand full of Northern Nigerian politicians. They point to stories such as the destruction a church in Mataazu, Katsina state as symbolic of the persecution they experience on a daily basis.

It is not easy to live as a Christian in a part of a constitutionally secular country which observes Sharia law. Indeed many of the Christians murdered in 2014 were not murdered by Boko Haram, but by other Islamic extremists.

The Northern States Christian Elders Forum (NOSCEF) has repeatedly tried to prevent hostility and conflict between the Northern Christian and Muslim communities. Whilst we try to dissuade our community from resorting to violence to solve conflict, we encourage them to use their democratic right to elect politicians that will represent their rights and provide the justice they desperately need.

To those with a knowledge of Nigerian politics, the religious tone to the current electoral campaign may be worryingly familiar of the scenes that followed the 2011 elections. But the Western media must understand, for many Christians in the North the outcome of this election will not just decide who rules them. It will decide theirs and their family's future.

And at the moment, the future of a Northern Christian feels like an increasingly vulnerable thing.