Murder of Christians Leads to “Special Concern” for Nigeria

By Kirk Petersen

Nigeria, home to the second-largest province of the Anglican Communion, has been named “a country of special concern for 2020” by Release International, an inter-denominational ministry supporting persecuted Christians around the world. The announcement follows the release of a video on the day after Christmas, purporting to show the murder of 11 Christians by an affiliate of the Islamic State.

Anglican Archbishop Benjamin Kwashi, Release International’s partner in Nigeria, has said “Nigeria has become the largest killing ground for Christians in the world today.” The organization quoted him saying:

“Across the north, the mainly Muslim Fulani have been taking land from predominantly Christian farmers by force and occupying their villages. … They attack, typically, in the middle of the night while people are sleeping. They shoot in the air and create panic to drive the villagers out. When the people flee from their houses into the darkness, the Fulani lie in wait with their machetes and cut them down. Again and again. And the government seems powerless to stop them.”

Kwashi, who has survived three attempts on his life, has been bishop of the Diocese of Jos since 1992. From 2008 to 2017, he was also Archbishop of the Province of Jos, and has been active in the GAFCON movement.

The Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) produced the December 26 video, saying the murders of the 11 unidentified men were in retaliation for the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who committed suicide in October to avoid capture by American special forces.

The Church of Nigeria reports having 18 million baptized members, ranking it second among the 40 provinces of the Anglican Communion, behind only the Church of England, which reports 26 million.

The news from Anglican Africa is not all bad. Ezekiel Kondo, archbishop of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, praised the government there for beginning to expand religious freedom, although he said more changes are needed. And earlier in December, the Anglican Church of Southern Africa inaugurated a new Diocese of Angola.

“African Anglicanism is not the only dynamic part of the Communion, but it is collectively the most dynamic part of the Communion,” said the Rev. Dr. David Goodhew, a scholar of religious demographics, in 2018. “It contains many churches that have faced profound challenges and shown much resourcefulness.”

Africa is the center of gravity for GAFCON, a conservative renewal movement within Anglicanism. The Anglican provinces in Nigeria, Uganda, and Kenya collectively account for more than a third of Anglicans globally, and primates of all three provinces have announced they will boycott Lambeth 2020.


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