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The persecution of Christians in Africa has become more intense and widespread in 2022

African Christians have experienced another sad year in 2022, especially in turbulent Somalia and Nigeria, where Islamist gangs like Boko Haram and the Islamic State have wiped out entire villages and Christian farmers have clashed with the herders of the Fulani tribe.

According to the annual World Checklist of the 50 most dangerous countries for being Christian, four of the ten worst countries are African: Somalia is in third place, followed by Libya, Eritrea and Nigeria. “Islamic oppression” was listed as the biggest threat in all but Eritrea, which offered some variety with “dictatorial paranoia”.

Activist group Open doors, which compiles the World Watch List each year, explained that Eritrea’s rulers allow only three heavily controlled Christian denominations: Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran. All others are brutally persecuted as potential threats to state power, with punishments for outlawed clergy ranging from years in solitary confinement to forced military service.

Open Doors said Eritrea has earned its unsavory nickname “North Korea of ​​Africa” ​​by imposing heavy surveillance on its citizens, particularly Christians who do not belong to the three officially recognized denominations.

Somalia, the most dangerous African country for Christians, is also dangerous for almost all the others due to the continuous attacks by Islamist terrorist groups, led by the infamous al-Shabaab.

Al-Shabaab controls a large part of Somali territory outright and ruthlessly oppresses the Christian residents of the villages under its rule. Outside of his territory, al-Shabaab treats Christians as priority targets of terrorism, especially those who have converted from Islam. The terrorist group has a penchant for killing aid workers after accusing them of trying to convert Muslims to Christianity.

That of the US State Department Religious Freedom Report 2020 he noted that nominal Somali central government does not control a great deal of land outside the capital Mogadishu, and some of the nearly or fully independent provinces are extremely repressive.

Officials in independent Somaliland, for example, arrested a Christian couple in October for proselytizing their religion, and since the two are converts from Islam, there have been calls from Muslim leaders to prosecute them for “apostasy,” which it can be punished by execution or torture under sharia law.

“Anyone who dares to spread Christianity in this region should be fully aware that they will not escape the hand of law enforcement and that the spread of Christianity will not be allowed and is considered blasphemy,” said a Somaliland police official. declared after the couple, who have a newborn child, were arrested. Prisoners escaped harsher punishments by effectively being exiled from Somaliland and sent to Mogadishu.

The State Department noted that Somalia’s central government technically guarantees the freedom to practice any religion, but prohibits the spread of any religion except the official state religion, Islam. Muslims are legally prohibited from converting to any other religion. The government pushes “Islamic values” for all school students, allegedly in an effort to counter al-Shabaab’s wild ideology, but Somali religious education has been heavily penetrated by extremist doctrines such as Salafism, which infuses the ideology of groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Salafism is not, to put it mildly, friendly to other religions.

Libya has an even more fragmented and divided political system, and Christians are oppressed practically in every part of it. Christian migrant workers are harassed or arrested as they pass through the many checkpoints operated by the patchwork of factions that control Libya, and detainees are sometimes handed over to human traffickers.

As in Somalia, so are Libyan Muslims who convert to Christianity accused of “apostasy”, and which can lead to the death sentence. It’s not just about vigilantes and sharia courts; Libya’s legal code includes a ten-year requirement for apostates to be executed if they refuse to repent. One of Libya’s two feuding national governments attempted to invalidate it, along with other old laws, but Libya’s Supreme Court rejected that annulment, so the law is still technically in effect.

As did the US State Department observedLibya also it has sharia vigilante groups, the worst of which are Salafis who view the practice of any other faith as an attack on Islam.

Nigeria, which made the top 10 on the World Watch List last year, is among the most violently oppressive nations in the world – second only to Pakistan, according to Open Doors estimates, and this year it even surpassed Pakistan in total number of Christians killed for their faith.

In addition to facing constant attacks by Islamic terrorists such as Boko Haram and its offshoot, the Islamic State – West Africa Province (ISWAP), who explicitly seek to eliminate Christianity from Nigeria – local Christians are often targeted for kidnappings, the most explosively growing sector in the country.

Kidnapping for ransom is a booming business bringing sizable income to Boko Haram and ISWAP, but many less notorious bandit gangs are taking hostages and looking for big bucks. The Nigerian government has been criticized for paying ransoms too promptly because it wishes to avoid the embarrassment of dead hostages or failed rescue attempts, a policy which has made hostages the more lucrative crop.

Vulnerable Christians are popular targets for kidnappers, as was the case with a Catholic priest and a seminarian who were seized in August for a six-figure ransom. Evidently the gangsters assume that Christian organizations can raise the funds to pay the ransoms if the Nigerian government does not. Boko Haram and ISWAP both have a fondness for kidnap Christian female students and forcibly convert them to Islam.

Nigerian Christians living in the country’s central region also have to contend with the Fulani, a culture of jihadist herdsmen who murdered dozens of Christians and destroyed their homes and churches last year.

Human rights activists say the Fulani have killed more Christians than Boko Haram or ISWAP in recent years. Christian groups accuse Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari of turning a blind eye to the terror campaign because he himself is a Fulani.

The latest Fulani atrocity occurred in December, when a Christian couple and their 17-year-old daughter were hacked to death on their farm. The couple’s other daughter, 20, barely survived the attack and was hospitalized with deep cuts all over her body.

A growing threat in Nigeria is the Replyanother offshoot of Boko Haram that broke away because its leaders thought Boko Haram was not doing enough to eliminate Christianity from Nigeria.

Ansaru is an extremely violent al-Qaeda ally, with well-trained fighters and a huge appetite for heavy weapons supplied by the illegal arms trade. He also runs a “hearts and minds” radicalization campaign to gain support from Muslim communities by offering them protection against bandits and even delivering humanitarian aid to villages neglected by the central government. Security analysts warned in 2022 that Ansaru is growing beyond Nigeria’s borders and spreading across the Sahel region.

Other hotspots identified by Open Doors included Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congowho are both battling savage Islamist insurgencies targeting Christian villages for terror attacks.

Christian groups say persecution is becoming more intense and widespread across Africa, and world governments, the media and the United Nations are not doing enough to address the problem – indeed, they rarely acknowledge that Christians are the most widely and fiercely persecuted group in Africa.

The Biden administration has been trying to develop its relationship with the Nigerian government, so it has angered religious groups delisting Nigeria in November 2021 as a country that violates religious freedom and so on minimize the threat of Fulani jihadists in 2022. African leaders known for indulging Christian persecution and violate human rights they were guest at the Biden administration’s “US-Africa Leaders’ Summit” in mid-December.