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Persecution of Christians

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:52 pm on 6th February 2020.

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Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough 1:52 pm, 6th February 2020

That is a very positive suggestion. Perhaps we should take some money away from the Governments who are not doing enough and give it directly to people on the ground.

We could spend hours going over many countries in the world but I want to talk about Nigeria, to take one example. It is a wonderful nation on the west coast of Africa. It is a close partner in the Commonwealth. It is forecast to be the continent’s “bread basket” within a generation. The UN predicts that Nigeria’s population could be 411 million by 2050 and 794 million by the end of the century. We have many people born in Nigeria or of a Nigerian background living in Britain today, and we welcome all this. However, in the same way that the recent expansion of ISIS in Iraq and Syria could not have been so easily predicted, we should be careful not to exclude from our view the painful reality that parts of Nigeria are now ripe for an ISIS takeover. I will talk about a few distressing examples—all well documented—from Open Doors and other organisations.

Some 1,300 Nigerian Christians have been killed in the past year, in addition to the more than 6,000 deaths since 2015. The Islamic Fulani, a nomadic ethnic group of about 20 million people across 20 west and central African countries, are, I am afraid, largely responsible for this new wave of attacks. In the last four or five years, growing numbers of them have adopted a land-grabbing policy—motivated by an extremist belief system and equipped with sophisticated weaponry—leading to the massacre of thousands of people and the permanent displacement of vulnerable rural communities.

Despite centuries-long tension between sedentary farmers and the nomadic Fulani herders, recent attacks have exposed the Fulani’s improved military capability and ideological fervour. The Global Terrorism Index in 2016 and 2017 named Fulani militia as the fourth deadliest terrorist group in the world, with only Boko Haram, ISIS and al-Shabaab considered deadlier. Targeted violence against predominantly Christian communities suggests that religion and ideology are key drivers in the massacre, which is going on in our time and, we might say, on our watch.