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Niger Christians ‘living in fear’ after Islamist attacks

By on Thursday, 20 June 2013

Niger troops stand guard outside the central prison at Niamey, Niger, after an attack by armed gunmen in early June (Photo: PA)

Niger troops stand guard outside the central prison at Niamey, Niger, after an attack by armed gunmen in early June (Photo: PA)

The head of the Catholic Church in Niger has warned that much of Africa’s Sahel region is facing a “coordinated Islamist campaign” that is leaving Christian communities “living in anxiety and fear.”

Archbishop Michel Cartateguy of Niamey said attacks by Islamist rebels have so far been limited to non-religious targets, but that the well-coordinated actions are sending clear messages to non-Muslims.

“It’s clear these actions are all closely organised. Strong links already exist between Islamist groups in several countries and a network is forming,” the archbishop said, speaking after the episcopal ordination of Auxiliary Bishop Djalwana Laurent Lompo, the country’s first Niger-born bishop.

“We thought the Islamists had been dispersed earlier this year in northern Mali. But they merely regrouped in southern Libya and intervened elsewhere,” he added.

The ordination went forward amid fears of a pending attack by the rebels. A member of the Society of African Missions, Archbishop Cartateguy said that he had requested an auxiliary because he is unable to visit parts of Niger out of fear of being abducted because he is a French national.

He said the rebels’ anti-Western and anti-Christian sentiments are partially a backlash against the legalisation of same-sex marriage in France, the region’s principal former colonial power.

“France congratulated itself on its intervention in Mali, but it also bears a heavy responsibility for what’s happening today,” the church leader said.

“The presence of foreign forces here has worsened the violence by failing to respect the region’s culture. Muslims have been quick to connect Christianity with the West, so the Islamist campaign looks set to intensify.

“Christian communities are living in anxiety and fear. It’s the first time Islamist militants have come into the open on such a scale.

“Catholics have always been well accepted by ordinary Muslims here. But integrist movements have begun to agitate and preach against Christianity and the West, and this is something new.”

Niger’s 25,000 Catholics comprise a small fraction of the country’s mostly Muslim population of 19 million, and include immigrants from other West African countries, including Benin, Togo and Ivory Coast.

As many as 4,000 people attended the ceremony for Bishop Lompo in Niamey’s Sports Palace after three days of prayer in parishes throughout the 77,000 square-mile archdiocese.

However, Archbishop Cartateguy said, preparations for the event were marred by the freeing of 22 inmates from the city’s prison in an attack by armed men on June 1 which left three prison guards dead. The government of President Mahamadou Issoufou blamed the attack on Islamists from the Boko Haram movement in neighbouring Nigeria.

Muslim leaders sent large delegations to Bishop Lompo’s ordination from Niamey and Maradi, the country’s second largest Catholic diocese, but a substantial police presence was needed to ensure security, the archbishop said.

The prison attack followed suicide car bombings at a military barracks at Agadez and French-run uranium mine at Arlit, which left 36 dead.

The Associated Press said a Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa and al-Qaida-linked Signed-in-Blood Battalion had claimed joint responsibility for the attacks in retaliation for Niger’s support of French intervention against Islamist rebels in Mali in January.

Islamists are also suspected of involvement in a June 11 attack on a paramilitary barracks on the outskirts of Niamey.

The violence in Niger follows a wave of Islamist-linked attacks from Nigeria to Kenya, and a March takeover of the Central African Republic by Seleka, an Islamist-led rebel alliance, which includes Arab-speaking Muslims.

  • la Catholic state

    So….Islamists are well co-ordinated and well organised internationally…….but with no well organised and well co-ordinated Christian response!

    Isn’t it time we did something about that.

  • mollysdad

    Isn’t there a scripture which commands the extermination of the seed of Amalek: those who are incriminated in the crime of genocide where the intended victim group is the people of God.

  • Dave

    This comment, combined with some of the others in your recent history, might lead some readers to believe that you are calling for the extermination
    of Muslims.

    The people of God generally remember that it was God Himself who told them: “You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thy enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you: That
    you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise upon the good, and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust.”

  • Benedict Carter

    Poor souls. May God protect them all.

  • Benedict Carter

    Yep, indeed — but the Templars, Hospitallers and the men who won the battles of Tours, Vienna and Lepanto were great Catholics.

  • mollysdad

    The scriptures are Exodus 17:14-16, Deuteronomy 25:17-19, 1 Samuel 15 and the whole of Esther. In the story of Esther the 13th day of the 12th month was appointed for the extermination of the Jews, and the number 13 appears repeatedly in the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima in which she sought to avert the Second World War and the destruction of her people.

    What I am saying is that the seed of Amalek are all those, but only those, who are guilty of participating in, conspiring to commit, or directly and publicly inciting, the crime of genocide where the intended victim group is the Christians or the Jews.

    This crime is well defined in international criminal law. It is a capital crime in the State of Israel, and Adolf Eichmann was executed under it.

    Although Jesus commands us to love our enemies, he does not set aside the mandate of the civil authorities to punish criminals with just punishments including, in the worst cases, the death penalty.

    I am not calling for the extermination of Muslims, for a Muslim is not, as such, a criminal of any description. Boko Haram have made their genocidal intentions clear, and so I can and must call for all of them to be wiped out without mercy, pity or quarter.

  • Dave

    They were great Catholics indeed. I have some brief experience with military service and one thing I learned was that it is very easy to move from a sense of righteous anger to a desire for blood and revenge. In a world where men are against men and against God and evil can only be checked by war, then to war we must go, but always to protect the innocent and to fight sin and evil, never to exact our own revenge against the sinner.

  • Lynda

    Its time Catholic Bishops in the West took their interfaith buddies aside and brought them to task about what their ideological compatriots are doing in Africa and around the world. It is not Christians and the west that need to come to new understandings but the teachings of Allah.
    Britain, France, Holland etc are completely stuffed unless they face up to the fact that they will resemble Nigeria, Lebanon and Syria in a relatively short time.
    Personally I think the British will let the working class areas suffer it out and then the rest will immigrate (to who knows where by then) when they can.
    I live in New Zealand and perhaps some might think it a good move to come downunder…except if Britain and Europe fall under a new version of the Ottoman rule I would expect it would embolden Indonesia to test its own mettle towards developing Dar al Islam.
    I pity our children and our grandchildren. Cameron and Obama are a disgrace. Putin is the only sensible world leader at the moment.

  • Lynda

    I might add the media in Britain were appalling over Lee Rigby’s murder. First they tweeked the tape of his murderous Islamic thug so we couldn’t hear the Allahu Akbar nonsense. Then once the Islam connection was obvious they all went on about ‘fear of anti-muslim backlash’. It was shocking actually that they wanted to use Lee Rigby’s sacrificial murder as a way to get at ‘far right’ elements. You have no ‘far right elements’ you only have freedom lovers trying to prevent their suburbs becoming Islamic conclaves.
    You have no ‘far right issues’, you have no intolerance issues, you have no cultural issues, what you have is living breathing Islam down your neck and a huge immigration problem.
    The problem is Islam – fair and square.
    The problem is not Muslims because they are just the same as you and me except they have a dreadful ideology in Islam which confirms murder etc etc in the name of its deity.
    Why can’t it be said and faced?
    I can only think that one of the side effects of liberalism is a kind of blindness.
    God Bless the Crusaders….at least they knew what to do. Making murder, such as Lee’s, the will of Allah or a just pleasing action for Allah is pure blasphemy. It takes evil and calls it holy and good.

  • Lynda

    And as for loving your enemy?
    This is what I think. I don’t think love is ‘tolerance’ or sentimental niceness. I don’t think it is smiling in the face of evil. Or running down to the local Mosque to show ‘solidarity’ with Muslims in the face of a possible ‘backlash’ after one of their own have murderously sacrificed a non-Muslim to their deity.
    I think loving your enemy and those that persecute you is praying for their conversion to Christ. It is also teaching them to face their errors and come to Christ in order to be saved and be free. It is evangelising them even though they kill you because you love them more than you love your own life.
    If ever you are with a Muslim and you do not, in love, tell them that Christ wants them to come to Him…you have compromised your own faith.

  • Toshi quaraba

    Whilst Christians are commanded to love their enemies and pray for them, the authorities ordained by God (Romans 13) are called upon to exercise justice. The Government of the Republic of Niger should intervene to stop this kind of terrorism now as it did start. Any delay will only make it increase. In some countries terrorism is punishable by death – let those countries do their duty according to their laws. We can only pray for repentance and conversion to be granted to those who have committed these heinous crimes. In the meanwhile we should help Christians in Niger to develop their own “African and Christian” identity to avoid unnecessary westernization.

  • Dave

    In spite of the twin evils of Islamist terror and a willful blindness masquerading as tolerance, there are indeed ‘far right issues’. A couple months ago I witnessed both an EDL protest which consisted of a whole lot of public drunkenness and incitements to racially-motivated violence (some of it caught on tape and posted online, in spite of which they claim never happened), and a fine display afterwards, where a handful of their group drunkenly chased after people of darker complexions screaming racial slurs and performing nazi salutes. These sorts of ‘freedom lovers’ are not Christians, and are an insult to those who, throughout the centuries, have fought or died in the battle against Islamist terror. They are evil divided against evil.

  • Lynda

    I can’t dispute with you about your experience…crowds draw interesting people. However, I’m not convinced that those called ‘far right’ such as the EDL are protesting in a racist way. Islam is not a race and it has well defined ideologies and aims that are simply being ignored. I have checked out the EDL website and looked at all its material and I can’t find anything wrong in its ideas at all. On the other hand a group the press call simply ‘the counter-protestors’ United Against Fascism are a problem. Reading media you would think EDL are Nazi thugs of the far right and United Against Fascism are the good guys out against them. But it seems that the murderer of Lee Rigby was filmed some time amongst UAF addressing the group at some rally. An EDL person was given a prison sentence for a general but threatening ‘tweet’ which someone complained about (EDL didn’t support the act). That seems pathetic and heavy handed when you have Anjem Choudary freely talking vicious ideas and protesting freely in the street about everyone going to hell.
    I don’t agree that EDL are ‘far right’. They are anti-establishment because the establish government are foisting these problems on their neighbourhoods. Islam has to change or go – Muslims can leave or drop aspects of their religion. Where is the so called anti-muslim backlash. I think an 83 year old lady was taken away in handcuffs for shouting out ‘Go back where you came from’, outside a Mosque. How can all these European countries be so crazy to let themselves be taken over like this.
    Lets be clear – Nazis, as in Hitler’s lot, dealt harshly with the Jews. Firstly what they said about them was an absolute lie, secondly they had their own racial ideology which they imposed on the Jews and others making them undesirables and subhuman. The EDL aren’t like this, rather it is the media and politicians telling lies – when a murderous Jihad takes place invoking their religion – as Lee Rigby’s murderer kept saying, their are many many verses to support what he did; Cameron says ‘it has absolutely nothing to do with Islam’. Its quite surreal. So the EDL are highlighting the truth about the religion and its effects in your society. Apart from that they have no ideology or political stance they want to impose overall. Personally, I think Tommy Robinson (or whatever his name is) will be vindicated in time and will become one of Britains heroes – unless Islam erases his memory.
    Nobody lives with the death threats he receives for a lie and a political goal. But they will for truth.

  • Dave

    Nothing wrong with their LGBT division then? And not much of a crowd, maybe 40, many intoxicated, though they later lied and said it was several
    hundred–and there was almost no support from my local community. I personally witnessed these members of the EDL, wearing
    EDL insignia, performing nazi salutes, and making racist and threatening
    statements about blacks and Asians. They have been caught out with time
    and time again with the same sort of behavior, in spite of the fact
    that they consistently lie about it. And all lies are the providence of the prince of lies. They are evil divided against evil.

  • la Catholic state

    Dave….the only reason the EDL are (in your words…not mine) ‘far-right’ is because they are atheists and secularists. The Faith of their Fathers was stolen from them. Secular authorities have worked tirelessly to rid Christianity from our schools and public life.
    But only Catholicism will quell Islam. But even then, Islam has made huge territorial gains into what was once Christendom. First comes secularism…..then comes Islamism.

  • la Catholic state

    It’s never a good idea for Christians to pin their safety on a secular Government.

  • Dave

    “The great assurance of victory is our correspondence with
    the Divine Will: “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Rom. 8:31). Can our
    enemies’ zeal for the cause of anti-God be overcome by our indifference to God?” “

  • Dave

    Not my words. Lynda first used the term ‘far-right’, albeit in quotes, and I was doing likewise since to argue otherwise seemed besides the point. I am happy to switch to another term.

    Otherwise I agree completely with what you said. I have always liked the meditation in Fulton Sheen’s War Book:

    “The great assurance of victory is our correspondence with the Divine Will: “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Rom. 8:31). Can our enemies’ zeal for the cause of anti-God be overcome by our indifference to God?”

  • Dave

    “As for Tommy Robinson, he should rediscover his Irish Catholic roots and go to Church.”

    This comment, by itself, with these exact words was deleted from this website earlier today. How on earth is that considered offensive on a Catholic site? I ask in earnest.

  • The Scientist Philospher

    A Christian in teh military. How did that make you different from a jihadist? Because you were on “God’s side?” Religion causes wars by generating certainty.

  • Dave

    Are you certain that you are a scientist philosopher?

  • Lynda

    Hi again! You lucky people…I am reading GK Chesterton’s ‘Orthodoxy’ and he has great insights. Perhaps a read of the chapter ‘The Eternal Revolution’ might be helpful to stir us all up from our slumber.
    You are SO FORTUNATE that ROBERT SPENCER is trying to get to Britain at this moment to support Tommy Robinson etc. Spencer has already been blighted by the term ‘far right’ which is nonsense. He is a faithful CATHOLIC who has lectured CATHOLIC STUDENTS on EVANGELISATION OF MUSLIMS at Franciscan University of Steubenville Ohio – the home of SCOTT HAHN. PLEASE look up Robert on Youtube and listen for yourself. ALSO his website JIHAD WATCH has many many news items and TEACHES ABOUT ISLAM. This person will wake you up and help your right thinking. In the final analysis he says simply – ‘pray, hope and don’t worry’.
    These are the prophets of the age – they speak the truth.
    You are the inheritors of the Catholic Tradition expressed by Edmund Campion, John Fisher, Thomas More, Margaret Clitherow and Anne Line etc. Timidity is not virtue…as GKC would say you have to be fierce enough and humble enough.
    I love Britian…my 4 times great grandfather was a Scottish nailer called Andrew Dawson sentenced to death as a Scottish Radical in 1820…for wanting fair wages and a vote. For his trouble he was finally deported to Australia. The 19th century was infamous for workhouses etc…I don’t think Britain wakes up to the needs of the working classes until it is too late. My mother was from Yorkshire and died as a new Catholic two years ago.
    My closest to heart Saints that I love are St Margaret Clitherow and St John Fisher…(who’s Feast day it is today as here it is already the 22nd June).
    You have the wonderful Fr Aidan Nichols who wrote a lovely book on converting the Realm.
    Go to it…look at Spencer, the Saints and Fr Nichols.

  • la Catholic state

    Didn’t you know, Philosopher, that only those with certainty ever venture to create and build!
    And thank God for Christian military. We’ve seen enough non-Christian/atheist military…..and humanity never wants to see their likes again!

  • Jimmy

    Christians forced themselves and their beliefs on most of the world at one point. Your time is up and now it is the muslims time to do the same. Why should you complain? The muslims are only doing what the christians did before? Conquer a country, oppress the people and force them to believe what you believe. its the christian way.

  • jimmy

    400+ years of the spanish inquisitions. there was no love or understand there. Now christians face from muslims the same fate that pegans faced from christians.
    If ever I see a christian i tell them to give up their mythical believes and come to love humans as they are by nature.

  • Jimmy

    Which god? Cause Allah has a favourite.

  • Jimmy

    Christians have been killing non-christians for centuries with the authority of the ruling king/government of the time. Why are you so surprised that muslims would do the same? Christians deserve no sympathy for they have inflicted murder and oppression for 100s of years. Reap what you sow I believe is your phrase.

  • Benedict Carter

    Sorry, did you speak?

  • la Catholic state

    Jimmy….. it might be a good idea to get an education in history. Islamic armies forced themselves and their beliefs on the Christian Jewish and pagan people of the Middle East! In fact….Mohammed had an army specifically for those who opposed his aims.
    Christianity brings enlightenment, civilisation and scientific advance! History tells us so.

  • la Catholic state

    Um…..the Spanish Inquistion killed between 3.000 and 5.000 (ONLY) in all its centuries of operation…..using the same methods as secular courts. In fact….many secular prisoners often blasphemed so that they could be tried by the Inquisition…..where you were freed merely by recanting. Not so in the secular courts…..where you could be HUNG ‘for a sheep as a goat’!
    Let’s not fall for anti-Catholic propogandists of history please!

  • la Catholic state

    Christianity is the real religion of peace. It is your bigotry and hate that allows you to tell lies like this. If you are so enamoured of Islam….go live in the Middle East! And hey….maybe you can help with the persecution of Christians there! It seems you would get some kind of a kick out of that! Creep!

  • lucio apollyon

    There have been Christian groups who have killed non Christians and other Christians as well for religious/economic reasons. I have been looking at some Church history and there have been groups such as the Anabaptists who were killed both by Protestants, Catholics and even Turks. They have Peace Churches. Quakers are pacifists too, Brethren as well and there is a good number of Evangelicals who have been imprisoned and executed for non killing the enemies of the state. Some groups have reaped what they have sown, but to generalize it is dangerous. Atheist have killed too in the name of their ideology…Russian revolution, Mexican Wars, Spanish Civil War etc.