There is a disturbing trend regarding persecution of Christians in Africa, and the continent is seeing an increasing in the number of violent attacks.
In West Africa, East Africa, Central Africa, North Africa and a few cases in Southern Africa, the Christian community is feeling the weight of living in consistent fear of attacks from different sources. Be that as it may, the Christian faith rises against all odds.
In West Africa, each day fresh reports surface, bringing news of attacks by Islamic extremist groups and how governments are becoming increasingly hostile toward believers. Dictators and authoritarian regimes treat Jesus like competition, trying to stamp out those with an allegiance to anyone besides the government. Christians are being threatened by their families, cast out by their communities and killed by their leaders.
In Burkina Faso, there has been a noted rise in attacks targeting Christians, as a result, Christians are in hiding, and schools and churches are closed with thousands of believers fleeing to the south.
In some parts of Nigeria, Fulani activist herders present what some have called a significantly more noteworthy danger than the Islamic radical gathering Boko Haram. Islamic extremists continuously target Christian communities with abductions of young girls, rape and assault of old ladies and killing innocent men.
Boko Haram is not defeated and is still a very powerful source, using both armed assault and suicide bombers targeting Christians. Whilst their presence is certainly known in Nigeria, the group that was founded in 2002 has also expanded into neighbouring countries. They have conducted terrorist attacks in Niger, Chad and Cameroon, which have resulted in dramatic refugee and humanitarian crises.
They are even regarded as “slave raiders” who target women in raids for “wives” in the areas around Lake Chad, which borders Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria. Furthermore, in places like Mauritania where Sharia law is implemented, the state is the fundamental driver. Here, citizenship is constrained to Muslims, and changing over from Islam is deserving of death. Anti-blasphemy laws are enforced and dominant. West Africa records the highest number of attacks on Christians in Africa.
In the Eastern part of Africa, al-Shabaab, a known terrorist group is attacking Christians, and dictatorships continue to make moves to intentionally destroy religious freedom. In Eritrea, which is the Horn of Africa, the dictatorship targets Christians for imprisonment and detention. According to one religious liberty report, Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki was said to “fear Christian evangelism because it could destabilize and disunify the country.” In East African countries with tribal societies, like Somalia and Ethiopia, abuse against Christians originates from relatives and the community.
The majority of Somalis are Muslims, and minority religions are heavily persecuted since the Christian community is tiny and under constant threat of attack. As a result, there is a patchwork of competing clans, containing factions and religious groups that pursue a strong Islamic identity against a background of a strong tribal identity. Sharia law and Islam are cherished in the nation’s constitution, and Christian mistreatment quite often includes violence. Moreover, in most villages, al-Shabab are true rulers advocating for Sharia law as the basis for regulating all aspects of life in Somalia.
In Ethiopia, churches are increasingly targeted. There is a recorded string of attacks on churches that injured Christians. A mob carrying sticks, stones and fuel moved from church to church in the Southern Ethiopia town of Alaba, destroying buildings and belongings. Witnesses to the attacks said they could hear the crowd shouting things like, “Alahu Akubar (“Alah is greater”) and “Alaba belongs to Islam.”
In Kenya, al-Shabaab recently claimed responsibility for the Jan. 17, 2019 attack in Nairobi, in which men armed with guns and explosives, killed at least 21 people in an attack that lasted hours on end. These and other attacks seem to be a new tactic to instil fear in the Christian community and get them to flee en masse. Clearly in the Eastern Part of Africa there is no freedom of religion.
In Central Africa, terrorist organisations are expanding their capacity and using it to violently oppress Christians. In Rwanda, the country has closed thousands of churches and has arrested some pastors citing noise pollution and failing to comply with building regulations. In the Central African Republic (CAR), the situation has worsened for Christians who face intensifying pressure from Muslim extremists and are also threatened by jihadists and criminal groups whose actions often overlap.
Christian civilians are still caught in the violent conflict between the mainly Muslim Seleka militia, that has divided into several factions and self-defense militant groups called anti-Balaka. Both groups regularly attack churches and believers’ homes. The attacks and targeting of Christians often result in the displacement of thousands of Christians who have lost their homes and livelihood—often forced to live in internal displacement camps.
In North Africa, Islamic oppression continues to pressure Christian converts. In Algeria, for instance, Islam is the state religion, thus blasphemy laws, discrimination and the closing of churches put believers at risk. For believers in this part of the world, nearly everyone around them is Muslim. Christians with Muslim backgrounds often face enormous pressure from immediate and extended families to renounce their faith and return to Islam.
There are severe restrictions on building or securing places for worship, which often prevents Christians from congregating. In addition to the hostility and violence faced by believers who do gather, Christians, especially women, face discrimination in their workplaces and public spaces.
In recent years, Islamic extremist groups have targeted Christians and churches both individually and in numerous violent and deadly acts of persecution. In Egypt, the Islamic State has publicly vowed to wage war on Christians. In early November 2018, Islamic State militants attacked a bus carrying Coptic Christians from a monastery in Minya, killing eight and injuring more than 13 people. And churches are consistently targeting of both Islamic State and Muslim extremists.
Southern Africa is not exempt from these attacks as four monks who lived in the North of Mozambique were forced to flee across the border to Tanzania when their monastery was attacked by Islamist insurgents. The attack took place in the village of Auasse, district of Cabo Delgado, an area that has seen repeated attacks over the past two years. More than 50 people were massacred in an attack in Xitaxi in Muidumbe district after locals refused to be recruited to its rank. Most were either shot dead or beheaded.
Christians continue to suffer from severe attacks from the media, religious intolerance and persecution. The trend noted from different regions of Africa depicts a clear picture that there is a certain religion against the thriving of Christianity in Africa. There must recognition of human rights and the freedom to practice one’s own religion, and attacks against Christians should not only be condemned but also acted against.