Christians in Nigeria

Church Commissioners – in the House of Commons at on 27 April 2023.

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Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Conservative, Congleton

What discussions the Church of England has had with the Church of Nigeria on the killing and abduction of Christians in that country.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is also the Prime Minister’s special envoy on freedom of religion or belief, for the service she does in bringing this appalling issue back before the House. Since the matter was last raised with me on 9 March there have been further atrocities against Christians in Nigeria, and the issue does not get enough attention in our media, which is why I am extremely grateful to her for raising it. The Archbishop of Canterbury met the candidates in the presidential election, and stressed the need to prioritise ending inter-community and inter-religious violence, and we will continue to speak out.

Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Conservative, Congleton

Open Doors reports that on Good Friday

“32 Christians were killed…in an attack by suspected Fulani militants on an IDP camp in Benue State…while people were asleep”, and that the camp

“houses nearly 30,000…mostly Christians, mainly women and children, who…fled their villages because of Fulani militant attacks.”

Open Doors described this as part of a number of “widespread attacks” across the state, including an attack on a church in Akenawe village on Palm Sunday, when a boy was killed and three people, including the pastor, kidnapped. Does my hon. Friend agree that stronger measures are needed to protect such vulnerable communities in Nigeria? What can the Church do to call this out?

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner

Frankly, words are a rather inadequate response to what we have just heard, but we must not tire of raising our voices with Nigeria, which is, after all, a Commonwealth country with which we have very good relations. As a good friend to Nigeria, I would expect our distress to be heard loudly and clearly. The Foreign Office obviously needs to keep on passing on the message.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

May I take this opportunity to wish the Church Commissioner a very happy birthday? He, like me, does not count the years but makes the years count; we’re at that age!

Further to the question of Fiona Bruce, there are missionaries from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Nigeria, including some from my constituency and across all of Northern Ireland. What discussions have taken place to ensure that support is available for ex-pat and United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland missionaries in the regions we are discussing who are isolated and may be in a vulnerable position?

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner

I thank the hon. Member for raising this issue, for his continued interest in it and for the magnificent work he does chairing the all-party parliamentary group for international freedom of religion or belief. The Bishop of Guildford was recently in Nigeria, speaking out on behalf of all Christians, not just members of the Anglican communion, in Nigeria. The Church of England will keep on engaging in this issue—sometimes quietly, sometimes behind the scenes, but we will continue to speak truth to power.