Strong condemnation expressed by the American Jewish Committee
LISA PALMIERI BILLIG
When Jewish people anywhere in the world hear about violence against religious or ethnic minorities, a red button is pressed calling to mind their own family and ancestral experiences as a persecuted and repeatedly expelled minority. Inevitably, feelings of horror, empathy as well as anxiety rise to the fore.
The Christmas Day massacres in Christian churches in northern Nigeria leaving at least 12 Christians dead, is only the latest of a long series of attacks that seem to know no respite in Nigeria but also in Iran, Egypt, China, Pakistan, Iraq and other countries. The main contemporary target seems to be Christians of all denominations, but other religious and ethnic groups, (the Bahai’s for example) are not exempt.
The American Jewish Committee immediately condemned the attacks.
AJC’s Executive Director David Harris stated, “The bestiality of this latest assault, regrettably, is not new, but clearly the need to protect Christians in Nigeria demands urgent action. No minority”, he continued, “certainly no Christian, in Nigeria should live in constant fear. As Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird laudably said, ‘We stand with the people and the government of Nigeria, and call for those responsible to be brought to justice.”
An AJC press release recalls that Boko Haram, an Islamist sect that has killed hundreds in a murderous campaign against Christians in northern Nigeria, has attacked churches on Christmas Day annually since 2010, as well as many other terrorist assaults. The group aims to install strict Shariah, or Islamic law across Nigeria, and has vowed to keep killing Christians in the multiethnic country.
Rabbi David Rosen, AJC’s Director of International Interreligious Affairs said, “The murder of people – all created in the Divine Image – is the most heinous of crimes, made even more outrageous in these cases by the fact that the victims were at worship of the One Creator of us all.
“If such dastardly acts are done in the name of religion, then they are the greatest of all religious heresies.”
While Christians constitute at least half of Nigeria’s total population, they are a minority in the North where the Islamist Boko Haram commits rampages freely and apparently without accountability to the government.
AJC also expressed concern over the permanent condition of danger in which Christian minorities live, effectively threatening freedom of religion. Media reports suggest that many Christians this year did not attend church services in the North of Nigeria, for fear of violence .. and if the churches had been fuller, the count of victims would probably be higher.