Just days before a suspected Islamist militant attack killed 30 people in Nigeria, a prominent bishop in the country lamented what he saw as a lack of adequate protection from the Nigerian government for the country’s nearly 100 million Christians, Get Religion reports.
Here’s the basic question that I keep hearing from readers: Why would it take to get mainstream coverage of the slaughter of Christians in Nigeria? The assumption, of course, is that journalists are biased on this topic for some reason. Hold that thought.
Meanwhile, here are a few examples of the kinds of stories we are talking about, starting with that Catholic News Agency headline mentioned earlier. Here’s the overture there:
Suspected Islamist militants set sleeping travelers on fire in Borno state, Nigeria, on Feb. 11, burning 18 vehicles filled with food supplies and killing at least 30, including a pregnant woman and her baby.
In a Feb. 7 interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop Augustine Obiora Akubeze of Benin City, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, warned that “The current situation in Nigeria reflects an unnecessary, unwarranted and self-inflicted tension. A politically polarized nation.”
“The President of Nigeria recently stated that he was shocked at the unabated killing of Nigerians, who are mostly Christians. Many Nigerians wonder whether the president lives in a parallel universe,” Archbishop Akubeze stated. “How can he be surprised at this time? After some of us have attended mass burials of Christians killed by Boko Haram?”
This is not surprising, since the Open Doors agency recently noted (see the 2020 World Watch List) that Nigeria led the world in Christian martyrdoms — with 1,350 confirmed.
But back to my emails. I also heard about another recent story, after a wave of coverage — in religious-market publications, again — about the death of a prominent Protestant leader.
Here is the top of a report from Christianity Today, a high-profile publication that mainstream journalists have been known to heed on other subjects: Boko Haram has beheaded a Brethren church leader in Nigeria, according to the same investigative journalist who shared the pastor’s hostage video which encouraged many with its testimony [see below].
“To break some news items can traumatize. I’m battling with one of such. Reverend [Lawan] Andimi, abducted by #BokoHaram was executed yesterday,” tweeted Ahmad Salkida. “Rev. Andimi was a church leader, a father to his children and the community he served. My condolences go to his family.”
“Reverend Lawan Andimi was beheaded yesterday afternoon, the video of the appalling executions with that of a soldier was obtained at 2:42pm,” wrote Salkida. “I made sure that the family, the authorities and the church were duly informed before the news was put out to the public this morning.”
Andimi’s denomination, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN), confirmed the pastor’s death. … The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) declared three days of prayer and fasting, and condemned the “brutal murder” of Andimi as “a shame to the Nigerian government.”
Maybe journalists have decided that Christian leaders like Andimi are calling attention to themselves with their leadership roles in that divided nation? So what about this Catholic News Service headline? “Bridal party beheaded en route to wedding.”
Father Francis Arinse, communications director of the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri, confirmed that a bride-to-be, Martha Bulus, and her bridal party were beheaded Dec. 26 at Gwoza, in northeastern Nigeria’s Borno state. Arinse told Catholic News Service that Bulus and her companions were traveling from Maiduguri to her Dec. 31 wedding when they were killed.
“They were beheaded by suspected Boko Haram insurgents at Gwoza on their way to her country home,” he told CNS. He added that Bulus used to be his parishioner at St. Augustine Catholic Church, Maiduguri, after he was first ordained.
Maybe it would help if the Vatican got involved and attempted to call attention to this slaughter? That leads to this Vatican News headline: “Christians persecuted in Nigeria amid deafening silence.”
“Every day,” says Father Joseph Bature Fidelis, of the Diocese of Maiduguri, “Our brothers and sisters are slaughtered in the streets.”
In a dramatic appeal to the papal charity, “Aid to the Church in Need”, Father Fidelis says the situation in northern Nigeria continues to deteriorate for religious and for the faithful who are under attack by fundamentalist Islamic militants.
His latest appeal follows the abduction of four young seminarians in the city of Kaduna, in north western Nigeria. It is the latest in a long line of attacks and murders of Christian believers there. An estimated 1000 Nigerian Christians were murdered in 2019 alone for their faith. Some 6000 of them have been killed since 2015.
So what is happening here? It is possible, of course, that we are seeing two basic facts about journalism stacked on on top of the other.
Fact one: American news consumers are not all that interested in overseas news. Fact two: Way too many journalists just don’t, you know, “get” the importance of religion news. Thus, there is little incentive to cover religion news on the other side of the world.
At the same time, many readers suspect that journalists are no longer anxious — in the age of Donald Trump travel bans — to pour ink on breaking stories about terrorism by radicalized Muslims, especially in Africa. The persecuted Christians, in other words, have the wrong political friends.
A few emails have gone further, in terms of bias logic. Their question: Are African Christians now listed among the bad guys in global wars over religion, culture and morality? Take, for example, all of those headlines about United Methodist and Anglican wars. Of course, radicalized Muslims would be to “the right” of traditional Christians on Sexual Revolution issues, but never mind that.