Freedom of Religion or Belief: International Conference — [Steve McCabe in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:03 am on 28th June 2022.

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Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough 10:03 am, 28th June 2022

It is obviously a very worrying situation. I do not want to go into too much detail on it, partly because I am not sufficiently briefed. However, the fact is that this casual violence is there. We should be concerned about that, in what is the largest democracy in the world.

The situation in Nigeria is dire. Just this month, a Catholic church in Owo was stormed by militants, leaving 50 dead. Imagine that: 50 people killed in a church. Bureaucrats here and in other western countries try to blame the violence in Nigeria on climate change and the competition for resources. I have heard their excuses again and again—“There are different tribes; there are hunter-gatherers; there are arable farmers.”—but it simply does not wash. However much it departs from our comfortable, western, liberal mentality, the fact is that there is outright genocidal persecution of Christians by extremists in Nigeria. Members do not have to listen to me; the Catholic Bishop of Ondo, in whose diocese the attack took place, clarified that:

“To suggest or make a connection between victims of terror and consequences of climate change is not only misleading but also exactly rubbing salt to the injuries of all who have suffered terrorism in Nigeria.”

We need our Ministers and civil servants to be honest. This is communal hatred and violent persecution. It is not about water supply or irrigation. It does not just affect Christians, although they are the canary in the mine. To be entirely fair, I have also pestered Ministers about Mr Mubarak Bala, the head of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, who is facing 24 years in prison for leaving Islam. That is another case that we should perhaps try to pursue.