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Freedom of Religion or Belief — [Ms Karen Buck in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 1:30 pm on 12th March 2020.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 1:30 pm, 12th March 2020

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. We spoke about this beforehand; he and I participate in many debates in this House, and often come forward with the same ideas, thoughts and deliberations. Yes, what is happening in Nigeria is perhaps a wee bit uncertain. The conflict involving the Fulani herdsmen, they would say, is to do with land and climate change. However, with respect to the hon. Gentleman, there are indications that there are more attacks on Christians than on anyone else. That does not lessen what is happening, but it indicates to me that there are many attacks on Christians across the whole of Nigeria.

To mention just a few of those attacks, there were five major attacks against Nigerian Christians in Kaduna state between January and November 2019, resulting in an estimated 500 deaths. There were at least another five attacks in Bassa and Riyom local government areas, as well as many attacks in Taraba state. Boko Haram remains in power around the Chad border region, including parts of Borno state. Some 1,000 Christians have been slaughtered in north-eastern Nigeria since January 2019, in addition to the over 6,000 deaths since 2015. I will talk about some of those attacks to illustrate how horrific they are.

Veronica, 35, from Dogon Noma recounted some of the awful attacks inflicted on her family. Her home was attacked by Fulani militia, and only she and three others survived; 13 of her friends and family were killed. Naomi, 54, from Karamai lost limbs in a brutal attack on her home, in which her elderly and fragile father was shot in his bed. In Ta’aziya’s village, almost 50 people were killed and only two homes were not burnt down. Pastors and leaders have said:

“Boko Haram might launch an attack at any time…this morning at 4am, they arrived with bombs. They focus their attacks on Christians.”

Whatever the other reasons may be, that is clearly what they are about.

“They kill farmers. They destroy our homes and churches. They kidnap and rape women. Some women are forced to marry Muslims. Boko Haram also attack Government properties and the police. No one can go beyond five kilometres from town.”

I want to ask five questions of the Minister, if I can. First, in the light of the Nigerian Government’s admission that Christians are being targeted in northern Nigeria, will the British Government move a UN resolution to send in peacekeeping forces to protect vulnerable communities and citizens in Nigeria? Secondly, will the UK renew its offer to assist in the search and rescue of Leah Sharibu, an ISIS captive for two years now, and others abducted and enslaved in Nigeria? Alongside Baroness Cox from the other place, my colleague Fiona Bruce and others, I had the pleasure of meeting Leah Sharibu’s mother Rebecca and her friend Gloria in this House, so I know how important this is for her.