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By Christian Post –

A Nigerian Catholic priest is calling on the Biden administration to consider investigating the Nigerian government’s role in the ongoing “jihad” against Christians. 

Father Ambrose Ekereku, a Catholic priest from Nigeria, addressed the hostility to Christianity that has come to define his country in a speech at the fourth annual International Religious Freedom Summit on Tuesday. His remarks came during a breakout session discussing violations of religious freedom in the West African nation, Ukraine and Armenia. 

“What is happening in Nigeria is a systematic jihad, genocide and ethnic cleansing,” he said. Ekereku maintained that the targeting of Christians by a predominantly Muslim ethnic group known as the Fulani isn’t a new development but one that goes back more than a century.

Nigerian Priest Ambrose Ekeroku speaks about persecution in Nigeria during an International Religious Freedom Summit panel on “Religious Freedom Violations in War & Conflict Zones: Ukraine, Armenia and Nigeria” on January 30, 2024, in Washington D.C. | The Christian Post/Nicole Alcindor

Explaining that the Fulani migrated to Nigeria from Senegal and Mauritania in the 19th century, Ekereku noted that “Islamic conquests” brought them to the country. While the Fulani established an Islamic caliphate that lasted for about 90 years, Ekereku told the audience of religious freedom advocates that “the British colonial masters interrupted the conquests that [were] going on.”

According to Ekereku, when Nigeria declared independence from Great Britain, “the Fulani claimed that the British handed Nigeria back to them. Now, they have continued that jihad. … That’s what is going on.” 

“This thing is not new,” he reiterated. “What is going on now is not new.”

Suggesting that the government has failed to effectively respond as “Nigerians are being kidnapped, raped, maimed and butchered by these terrorists,” Ekereku warned that “it’s not going to stop unless the international community comes to our aid.” He described Nigerians as “helpless” because “Christians don’t know where to go.” 

Ekereku vehemently denounced the claim touted by some leaders that climate change is causing the Fulani to target and massacre Christians: “It is not. It is jihad that is going on. It is not farmer-herder clashes.” 

Some prominent Christian leaders who have spoken out against the Fulani attacks, such as Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, have suggested that international efforts need to tackle the harmful effects of climate change, which he accused of “exacerbating ancient rivalries.” 

“Even the Church is not able to speak as it should because if … I said what I’m saying now in the pulpit in Nigeria, they would come for me the next moment,” he lamented. “They would kill me.”

While many religious freedom advocates are calling for Nigeria to be reinstated on the U.S. State Department’s list of Countries of Particular Concern reserved for the world’s worst persecutors of religious freedom, Ekereku suggested that such an action does not go far enough, insisting that “Nigeria … should be held accountable because there are those in government and the security services who are complicit in the violence.” He called on the U.S. and others to “take action and stop these killings.”

2022 report published by the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law sought to quantify the number of Christians who lost their lives in Nigeria. The report, released in November 2022, found that Islamic jihadist groups were responsible for killing more than 4,000 Christians in the first 10 months of the year alone. The document attributed the deaths of 2,650 of the 4,020 Christians killed in Nigeria to Fulani and Islamic terror groups affiliated with them. 

Ekereku wasn’t the only religious leader residing in a country plagued by religious persecution to speak at the International Religious Freedom Summit.

Mykhail Brystyn, who serves as the director of the Department of Religious Freedom at the Christian ministry Mission Eurasia, detailed his experience as a pastor residing in the Ukrainian city of Melitopol as the country has been invaded by Russia. 

“In February 2022, my city was occupied by the Russian military,” he recalled. While his church continued “gathering people for prayer” in addition to providing people with food, clothes and medicine, it didn’t take long for the Russian military to begin conducting “interrogations of church ministers.”

Brystyn described how six months after Russia first occupied Melitopol, his church was “captured by Russian occupational authorities” who “interrupted the worship service” and “took everyone’s fingerprints.” According to Brystyn, “Our church was [the] third in our city to be closed by the Russian military. Today, Russian officials have closed 15 churches in our city.” 

Asserting that “all churches are closed” in Russian-occupied Ukrainian cities, Brystyn reported that “most priests and pastors like me have been threatened, intimidated, humiliated, detained, beaten and deported.” He added, “Some priests and believers are still in Russia, freezing to death” while “some of them were killed.” 

“As long as Russian occupation of Ukrainian territories continues, the new face of religious persecution will endure because where there is Russia, there is no freedom at all,” he predicted. “I believe that religious freedom will return to the occupied territory only when they are liberated and returned under control of [the] Ukrainian government.”


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