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Features: SPEAKING UP FOR FAITH AND FREEDOM
Dec 09, 2018








ABUJA, NIGERIA -

Between 22nd November and 4th December 2018, a number of famous world sites were illuminated in red and millions of Catholics from over 24 Countries raised their voices to draw the world’s attention to the plight of persecuted Christians around the world.

Accompanied by series of publicity campaigns, prayer meetings and conferences around the world, the 14th Edition of the “Religious Freedom in the World Report” was published and launched by the International Pontifical Foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) in all the 24 Countries where the Foundation operates.

“As an organisation committed to helping persecuted Christians, ACN has a particular duty to uphold the basic human right of religious freedom”, explained Dr. Thomas Heine-Geldern, the Executive President of the Foundation.

In his message for the event, The Holy Father Pope Francis expressed the hope that this “timely initiative” by ACN will “draw the well-deserved attention of all people to the grave problem of discrimination facing Christians in so many parts of the world”.

In Malta, the Catholic Archbishop of Jos, Most Rev Ignatius Ayau Kaigama was the Keynote Speaker for the Report Launch which was held on 24th November at the President’s Palace in Attard, Malta.

Speaking on “The Challenges of Religious Freedom in Nigeria”, the Archbishop gave a background of the fragile relationship between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria and explained the underlying causes responsible for this.

 

He pointed out that Nigeria has suffered infringements on the right to religious freedom through incidences of massive destruction to lives and property by the Boko Haram insurgents and militant Fulani herdsmen. Such incidences he said also include the abduction of school girls, the suffering of the internally displaced persons, denial of rights and privileges to Christians, disallowing the teaching of Christian Religious Knowledge in some Northern States, the kidnapping of Catholic Priests and Sisters, fear and the psychological trauma induced by fanatics or militants.

 

He requested the kind support of the President of Malta who was present at the event to raise her voice strongly at the United Nations in favour of ethnic or religious minorities discriminated against in Nigeria and other parts of the world.

 

“We must continue to work together transcending religious divides in collaboration with bodies such as Aid to the Church in Need and other organizations of goodwill to support persecuted persons, the millions of internally displaced persons and positively strengthen faith communities”, he said.

 

Archbishop Kaigama told the people that the Church in Nigeria is a vibrant one.

 

“The faith of our people is incredibly solid despite all these attacks. Churches are always filled. We have children, youth, men and women and old people who love the Church and are passionate about the faith. Sometimes you go to Church and there are no seats for people because of the huge number.”

 

Responding to the testimony of Archbishop Kaigama about the situation of the Church in Nigeria, the Auxiliary Bishop of Malta, Most Rev Joseph Galea Curmi said, “When we listen to this kind of experience and many that resemble it, we will better understand and appreciate the demands of our faith and how we should live our faith by sharing with others and learning from their faith. Theirs is a witness which is so relevant for us. Their story shows that the deep-rooted faith they have is stronger than those who try to destroy it.”

 

During his stay in Malta, Archbishop Kaigama baptised two babies, Ella and Nicholas at The Church of Jesus of Nazareth, Sliema. He also visited parishes, convents, schools and the Nigerian/Ghanaian Community in Malta.

 

In the United States, one of the Guest Speakers for the Report Launch held on 28th November at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. was Most Rev. Oliver Doeme, the Catholic Bishop of Maiduguri.

Giving an account of the devastating effects of Boko Haram attacks in his Diocese, the Bishop said the region has suffered some of the most extreme violence and destruction perpetrated by the terrorist group, Boko Haram and the Church in Maiduguri is slowly coming back to life.

 

However, he quickly pointed out that “the good news is that our people have unshakeable faith. In terms of structures a great lot has been destroyed so we have a situation where our people have to worship God under the trees or make-shift tents but even in this situation, you find joy radiating on their faces. Also, in terms of vocations, the church is blooming”.

 

“I make bold to say that the Church in North Eastern Nigeria will flourish. We have seen the signs and it is coming to pass”, he said.

 

Bishop Doeme expressed immense gratitude to Aid to the Church in Need, Mission, Misereor and all organisations who stand by them in their suffering by providing all forms of spiritual, moral and financial support.

 

During the period of this report launch, the Colosseum in Rome, the Westminster Cathedral, Lambeth Palace and Blackpool Tower in the United Kingdom, Houses of Parliament in London, Basilica De La Sagrada Familia Barcelona, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Washington DC, Knock Basilica Ireland, over 1300 churches and 30 schools in the Philippines and a great number of iconic buildings all over the world were lit in red as a sign of solidarity with Christians who shed their blood for the faith.

 

 

By Grace Attu (Mrs)


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