These Lives Do Matter: The Genocide of Nigerian Christians

Boko Haram Victims With Mario Alexis Portella 1024 600 Inside BY MARIO ALEXIS PORTELLA ·

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Boko Haram Victims With Mario Alexis Portella 1024 600 Inside BY MARIO ALEXIS PORTELLA ·
The author with the victims of Boko Haram. (Photo: Personal Collection)

Last Wednesday another Nigerian was killed by the Islamist group Boko Haram village in Chibok Local Government Area of Borno State. According to a villager:

“We just received the news again that they (Boko Haram) attacked one of our relatives in the farm and killed him. It is very unfortunate. They have been attacking our village and killing our people like goat. This incident is more than 16 times this year along and nothing is being done about it.”

This continuing tragedy is essentially being fully ignored not just by the Marxist group Black Lives Matter, but by most Westerners, too. According to a May report by The Nigerian Voice 620 Christians Hacked To Death By Nigerian Jihadists since the start of 2020. Why is no one in the West speaking out against this?

Last summer I had the opportunity to visit Christians in Nigeria who are being persecuted by Islamist fundamentalists, specifically Boko Haram, in the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri (northeast Nigeria).

As I traveled through the mostly 51,000 square mile terrain, I spent some time with a woman whose husband, Yohanna, had been kidnapped by Boko Haram just two days prior. While she was very much comforted by her fellow parishioners, who were praying and hoping against hope that he would be released, regrettably, just hours after spending some time with her, Yohanna’s dead body was found.

This is just one of many tragic stories, as already indicated, that go unreported. While the West and NGOs contend that they can conquer Islamist terror with arms—just like they tried to do ISIS in Syria and Iraq—they fail to get at the root of the problem: the ideology that continues to be indoctrinated in the youth, as with the Almajiri boys.This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_3391.jpeg

An Almajiri boy wondering the streets in Maiduguri. (Photo: Personal Collection)

Derived from the word hajarah (to flee one’s country, to migrate, to emigrate), these boys are supposed to be “knowledge” seekers as commanded by Allah in the Quran:

“And whoever emigrates for the cause of Allah will find on the earth many [alternative] locations and abundance. And whoever leaves his home as an emigrant to Allah and His Messenger and then death overtakes him—his reward has already become incumbent upon Allah.”—Sura 4, 100

For many families, the Almajiri educational system offers an alternative to sending their children to a state school which costs money. Most of the religious schools provide free tuition. But the Almajiri pupils have to take care of their own daily needs, which is why many of them go begging when they do not have to be in the classroom.

According to the National Council for the Welfare of Destitute report in 2017, approximately seven million Almajiri roam the streets of northern Nigeria every day. Many of them concede to the strongest wind that blows: street violence, child trafficking, diseases, or hunger.

Those who manage to resist ultimately undertake menial jobs with very limited future perspectives as they emerge from the system as unskilled workers. Critics, both from Nigeria and abroad, say the young Almajiri pupils—and I encountered numerous of them—who wander through the streets and seek religious orientation are ideal recruits for extremists.

Of course, within the past few years, some of the victims to Boko Haram and the Fulani nomads have been Muslims. However, when the destruction of lives and property is done and it comes to rehabilitation/reconstruction and rebuilding of lives, government funds are used to rehabilitate Muslim communities and compensate Muslims. Christians are simply left out.

Some of the visible and practical forms of persecution and challenges that Christians have had to live with for decades include:

  • Denial of land to build places of worship. The last time that a Certificate of Occupancy was issued for a church building within the Diocese of Maiduguri was in 1979
  • Denial of Christian religious curricula in the primary and secondary levels. Instead they are forced to study Islam
  • Denial of jobs and promotion in government-owned companies
  • Political exclusion and denial of political office
  • Forceful abduction and marriage for Christian girls;
  • Course in higher institutions of learning reserved for Muslim

As the Father John Bakeni, a priest from Maiduguri, told me, the persecution of Christians is prevalent. “About four years ago, they came to us. There was no place for them to stay. Nobody wanted to take them in, not even the housing communities.”

“The diocese has been solely responsible for their welfare and their upkeep. Like other displacement centers, they have received little or no attention from the government. Not even from NGOs of Christian roots and origin. People don’t want us to say this in public, but that is the fact.”

As reported by Raymond Ibrahim, earlier this year, Christian Solidarity International issued a “Genocide Warning for Christians in Nigeria,” in response to the “rising tide of violence directed against Nigerian Christians and others classified as ‘infidels’ by Islamist militants…” More recently, in a May statement, the Christian Rights Agenda, another human rights group, expressed concern for “the seeming silence of Nigeria’s President, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, who as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces has not only failed to protect the Christian communities but has remained silent over these killings. To date, no Fulani herdsmen have been arrested and prosecuted over the killings, a development that has helped to embolden them.” It is worth noting that Buhari himself is a Fulani Muslim.

Separately, the Muslim man who murdered Michael Nnadi, an 18-year-old seminarian at the Good Shepherd Seminary, confessed from his jail cell that he did so because the youth “continued preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ” to his captors. According to the May 3 report, “the first day Nnadi was kidnapped … he did not allow [Mustapha Mohammed, his murderer] to have peace” due to his relentless preaching of the Gospel. Mohammed “did not like the confidence displayed by the young man and decided to send him to an early grave.”

Do these lives matter? You bet they do! Pity that for Black Lives Matter and most NGOs and Western government officials, they do not, and they should be ashamed of themselves!


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Mario Alexis Portella is a priest of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Florence, Italy. He has a doctorate in canon law and civil law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome; he also holds a M. A. in Medieval History from Fordham University, as well as a B.A. in Government & Politics from St. John’s University. He is also author of Islam: Religion of Peace – The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-Up.

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