RFI’s Stephen Rasche Discusses Nigeria Massacre and Violence Against Christians

June 17, 2022

Stephen Rasche, RFI Senior Fellow for International Religious Freedom in Conflict Regions, recently discussed the Pentecost Sunday massacre at a Catholic church in Nigeria on June 5,  as well as the violence that Christians in Nigeria are facing generally. 

In an interview on EWTN’s podcast “Conversations with Consequences,” Rasche explained that while many news sources have claimed that the attack was perpetrated by unknown armed men, it is clear to people on the ground that the attackers were Fulani Muslim herdsman who used recent cattle grazing conflicts to enact violence against Christians. Rasche emphasized that this violence is not being addressed properly by the current government, saying:

A lot of this violence has been building over the last several years and it’s really, unfortunately, not a surprise what happened this past weekend, when a culture of impunity against this type of growing violence has absolutely been allowed to develop and the current government in power has just been increasingly oblivious – throwing out statements of dismay after the fact – with absolutely no real follow-up on any of it. There’s very little confidence anywhere in Nigeria that the current government is going to be able to do anything about this.

The Pentecost Sunday massacre did not make any of the major news headlines, which Rasche explained is partially because it is difficult to cover a story when the real issue is being denied.

The other thing that is clearly going on, which comes from much of the Western governments, is this desire to frame everything in the context of either climate change or some other Western social justice priority, and a real lack of willingness to confront the issue of violent Islam, which exists in this world. When you keep denying that that can be an issue in and of itself, then it gets really difficult to address any narrative on these stories.

Rasche said that the excuse of climate change gets more difficult to accept when looking at the violence that Christians are facing in Nigeria, emphasizing that the issue of religious persecution cannot be replaced by more Western trending concerns.  

In another interview with the National Catholic Register, in which he expressed similar thoughts, Rasche also added his observations of how faith is flourishing in Nigeria, despite the persecution: “In these last two years, I have been able to participate in Masses in dozens of churches throughout northern and central Nigeria, from cathedrals holding thousands to tiny outpost churches up in the mountains, accessible only by long journeys on foot. In every place I have witnessed the same thing: great joy and deep participation.”

Nonetheless, it is vitally important that action be demanded of leaders in both the U.S. and the EU. Rasche explained that attempts to frame these acts of brutality must be called out as complicity. 

“Climate change did not kill the Sunday worshippers this past weekend sitting peacefully at Mass in Owo. These situations have no hope of getting better if we in the West continue to make up cover stories for what is actually happening in order to fit our other narratives.”

Listen to the full “Conversations with Consequences” interview: RFI’s Stephen Rasche Talks Nigeria Massacre

Read the full National Catholic Register interview: In Nigeria, Faith Is Flourishing in the Face of the Deadly Persecution of Catholics