By Jonah McKeown
On June 5, Pentecost Sunday, gunmen believed to be Islamic extremists associated with Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) entered St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State, in southwestern Nigeria. They fired weapons, detonated explosives, and killed at least 40 people, the government says.
The horrific attack was not without precedent in Nigeria. In fact, more Christians are killed for their faith in Nigeria than in any other country worldwide — at least 4,650 in 2021 and nearly 900 in the first three months of 2022 alone.
The country was, without explanation, in late 2021 delisted from the U.S. State Department’s list of countries with the most egregious religious freedom violations. But Christian leaders and advocates continue to highlight and document the brutal ongoing persecution against Christians — often at the hands of their Muslim neighbors — in Africa’s most populous nation. Some aid organizations and experts are even assembling evidence that the killing of Christians in Nigeria constitutes genocide.
The interactive map above highlights some notable attacks on Christians in Nigeria during roughly the past three years. The map is not an exhaustive survey; many more killings in Nigeria go unreported, and kidnappings — especially of Catholic priests, seminarians, and young female students — also occur frequently. Violence in Nigeria peaked around 2014, when the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, which still poses a serious threat in Nigeria, was most active. That year, an estimated 5,000 Christians were killed by Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen.
(SOURCE: CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY)