By Francesca Merlo
“It is not Nigerian local media that shared the news of the killings”, but the so-called Islamic State in West Africa Province, says Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Abuja when speaking to Vatican Radio’s Francesca Sabatinelli.
The group released an almost one-minute-long video showing the killing of 11 people, said to be Christians, in an unidentified location on Christmas day.
According to Archbishop Kaigama, the “fighting and killing and kidnapping” are a way for the group to force the government to pay them ransom, or “free those of their people who have been arrested”. The group claimed that the Christmas Day deaths were to avenge the deaths of its leader and spokesman in Syria.
“They are trying to create a situation of war”, he said, “they want to see Muslims and Christians fighting”. They hope that among the confusion they will “have the upper hand and be able to destroy Christians, take over the country and even the neighbouring countries”.
However “we cannot say”, continued Archibishop Kaigama, that Christians are being denied their rights.
There are functioning Catholic churches in the country, just as there are functioning Muslim mosques. Therefore, he said, “you cannot say that one group has been denied religious freedom”. However, what we are saying is that that in some cases there is “serious discrimination”.
“Sometimes you have no possibility to buy land to build a church in the Northern states where Muslims are the majority. You cannot have Christian religious programmes on television or radio. You cannot teach Christian religious knowledge in schools, or have a Christian Chaplain to help the Christians in the universities. These are serious problems.”
Archbishop Kaigama says that even in the present government Christians are suffering discrimination. The more “important” and “sensitive” positions are “being given to Muslims”. He sees this as “a deliberate attempt to favour Muslims over Christians”.
“This is a fact and this is what we have to work on”, concludes Archbishop Kaigama of Abuja, in order to “maintain an equilibrium” and “create equality” so that there may be “justice” and “fairness” for all.