Global religious violence database launched

As religious violence against people of faith, and Christians in particular, escalates around the world, Christians living in Nigeria are bearing some of the worst instances of it.

According to several local news sources and human rights activists, 198 Christians were killed in Nigeria in a series of terrorist attacks that began on the night of 23 December and continued through Christmas Day. 

Maria Lozano, a representative of the aid agency Aid to the Church in Need, described the Christmas attacks as “one of the most violent [times] in the area’s history.” 

“The attack also marks another instance of terrorists targeting Christian Nigerians on significant Christian feast days such as in the 2022 Pentecost massacre that killed 50 Christian villagers. 

Lozano noted that “the attacks were carried out because of a combination of reasons including ethnic and religious strife between the Christian farmers and nomadic Fulani herdsmen.”

She pointed out that the timing of the attacks had “religious undertones.”

While the European Parliament has condemned the attacks, groups such as ADF International have criticised the wording as inadequate, noting that it: 

“...does not fully acknowledge the highly detrimental role of Sharia law, Islamic Extremist groups, and the danger of blasphemy accusations but rather elevates “the role of climate change” and “environmental degradation” as root causes”.

“There are reports of 8 churches burnt down and 15,000 people internally displaced by the attacks”.

Local resident Magit Macham told Reuters:

“We were taken unawares, and those that could run ran into the bush. A good number of those that couldn’t were caught and killed with machetes”. 

Dr Georgia Du Plessis, Legal Officer for ADF International expressed disappointment:

“While we applaud the European Parliament’s recognition of the horrific Christmas massacre targeting Christians, we are disappointed that the resolution downplays the religious causes of the violence while highlighting issues such as climate change. Climate change does not cause people to massacre whole Christian villages”. 

ADF International has noted that “Christians in Nigeria are particularly targeted and vulnerable. In 2021, 90% of all Christians worldwide who were killed for their faith were in Nigeria. On average 14 Nigerian Christians die every day”.

News of this latest attack comes as the first global database to track cases of anti-religious violence was launched. The database is run by the International Institute for Religious Freedom (IIRF) and will comprehensively document incidents of religious violence suffered by people of faith around the world, providing:

“...searches by country, religion and perpetrator, the database also includes data on arrests, vandalism, sexual harassment, abductions, attacks on houses, attacks on shops, closures of worship venues, attacks on religious buildings and cases of people forced from their homes or countries.”

“Kinds of perpetrators listed are religious groups, organized crime, political parties, religious leaders, ethnic leaders, family, government officials, ideological pressure groups, ordinary civilians, revolutionaries or paramilitary groups and multilateral organizations.”

Australia is privileged to enjoy a wide array of freedoms, as a nation that deeply values and actively upholds the principle of religious freedom. This commitment ensures that individuals are free to practice their faith without fear, as acts of violence or discrimination against people of faith are not tolerated. 

As such, it's vital that we do not take these freedoms for granted but work to protect and strengthen them, recognising their importance in maintaining Australia as a peaceful and stable democracy. 

HRLA is working hard to uphold and defend those freedoms.