About Central African Republic now a lot of talk after the death of the journalist Orhan Cemal, directed by Alexander Rastorguev and operator Kirill Radchenko. They were in the country for the purpose of journalistic investigation, the circumstances of their death are still mounted. But in the CAR the first year there is a civil war between Muslim groups from the North and the Christian majority. And this is just one of the many religious conflicts on the continent. “Pravmir” figured out where and what to persecuted Christians in Africa.
Photo: Marcus Bleasdale / thephotosociety.org
- Where there is persecution of Christians?
- Metropolitan Hilarion: Today we are witnessing the martyrdom of Christians in the middle East
- Persecution of Christians: challenges and modernity
- Expert: More Christians killed in Africa
- Journalists Orkhan Jemal, Kirill Radchenko and Alexander Rastorguev died in Central Africa
The Central African Republic. A war against all
The share of Christian population: about 90%
Civil war in Central Africa, which killed Russian journalists, is exemplary for such conflicts on the continent. In the confrontation 10 years involved a coalition of Muslims from the North of the country, “Seleka” and the Christian Union and animistic groups “Anti-Balaka” (“Anti-Kalashnikov”). However, both of the coalition is far from United and observers there are about 12 active groups participating in the civil war for which religious affiliation is an important, but still situational marker.
Islam remained Central Africa inherited from the ancient sultanates and kingdoms, having a Muslim influence from the East and North of the continent, Christianity was spread by the colonialists – the French and the Germans, who divided the region at the end of the “African race” of the nineteenth century and moving to the South and West.
The attitude to religion in government leadership of the Central African state in the period of independence was also quite utilitarian – a bad famous for in the 60s – 70s years of the dictator Jean-Bedel Bokassa changed his political and religious orientation several times: he got to be a Catholic, a socialist and a Muslim (depending on who was willing to invest in maintaining his power over the king: the former French colonialists, the Soviet Union and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi). Shortly before the overthrow of Bokassa and even declared himself the 13th Apostle.
However, all this does not prevent the “Selectors” to plunder and demolish the Church (including in the capital, Bangui), destroy the settlements of the Christians and their opponents of “Anti-Balaka” to arrange the burning of witches and to beat the priests who are trying to stop the violence. Peacekeeping efforts in the region undertaken by France, the African Union, Russia and even China. They want the world to have access to the mineral deposits of the country.
Somalia. A country without law
The share of Christian population: less than 1%
According to the American public organization Open Doors, which monitors the oppression of Christians around the world, Somalia is ranked third in the world in terms of religious persecution, after North Korea and Afghanistan.
Somalia is traditionally considered a Muslim country, Sharia law has acted here, even during the colonial period (nineteenth and twentieth centuries the country is divided in Britain, France and Italy). However, there existed a small Christian, mainly Catholic community.
In 80-e years in the country the economic crisis caused by the disastrous war against neighboring Ethiopia and the loss of support from the Soviet Union, and since the early 90-ies there is an armed civil conflict. The state of Somalia was a classic example of so-called failed state – full collapse system of government in the country.
This situation was ideal for the emergence of extremist organizations. One of the most powerful of them was “al-Shabab” (in force since mid-2000-ies, is prohibited in Russia) – Association of radical Islamists, calling themselves part of “al-Qaeda” (international terrorist organization banned in Russia). It controls part of the coast of the country and from time to time organises terrorist attacks in Somalia and other States, but supporters of the organization and the Wahhabi values for which it stands, there is throughout the country. First and foremost, is a radical teachers and students of the madrasah, the elders and some of the Muslim clans and tribes.
The complete eradication of Christianity and Christians in Somalia – one of the requirements of “al-Shabab”. Militants often organizations kill people suspected of the Christian religion. At the end of 2017 Somali supporters of the “Islamic state” (another international terrorist organization banned in Russia) called for the “early hunt” for Christians and destruction of churches. According to Open Doors, in the first half of 2018 in Somalia because of the faith were killed at least 23 Christians, the insurgents destroyed shops and businesses that belonged to the Gentiles.
Sudan. The cold war between North and South
The share of Christian population: about 4%
Sudan – a victim of the arbitrary definition of African borders by European colonizers. In the Middle ages and modern times in the North of Sudan, there were several Muslim sultanates, the country then became dependent first on Islamic Egypt and the Ottoman Empire, and then from the UK. The British began the Christianization of the tribes of southern Sudan, to create a counterweight to the traditional Arab elite from the North. When in the 50-ies of XX century, the Sudan gained independence, the division between the Muslim North and the Christian South was left to the new Republic.
To resolve differences, often reaching the state of open civil war, was only in 2011, when after the referendum, South Sudan declared its independence. President Omar al-Bashir continued Islamization. Immediately following the referendum, the Sudanese authorities had invited representatives of non-Islamic faiths and peoples of the South to leave the country. In southern Sudan, soon began its own civil war, in which the Christians were held hostage by local tribal groups.
According to Open Doors in 2018, the Sudanese authorities have closed about 20 Christian churches, and strengthened laws restricting freedom of conscience. Any mention of the Christian religion when dealing with Muslim can be seen as encouraging apostasy from Islam is regarded as a serious offence.
In addition, as stated in the report of the organization, from the beginning of the year because of their religious beliefs in the Sudan killed at least three Christians. Such pressure by the religious principle from the state – albeit on a smaller scale – the experience of Christians in other countries of North Africa – Tunisia, Algeria, Mauritania and other countries dominated by Islam.
Eritrea. The President, who suspects all
The proportion of the population Christian: 46%
Problems of Christians in Eritrea are not so much religious as political. This country gained independence from neighboring Ethiopia after a referendum in 1993. But after five years between the two States broke out a war in which Eritrea has effectively been defeated. Since then the country lives in the situation of a military camp and any public activity controlled by the state, headed by longtime President Isaias Afeworki.
In Eritrea allowed only four religious groups: Islam, the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church of Eritrea, the Roman Catholic Church. Any religious activity outside of them may be regarded by the authorities as cooperation with enemies of the state and threatened imprisonment. Some of the “wrong” Christians in jail for more than a decade, says the report Open Doors.
Libya. When there’s nowhere to run
The share of Christian population: about 4%
– The jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Alexandria is Libya, which I think is a huge cemetery – my offspring are constantly drowning in a sea, – described the situation in Libya Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa Theodore II at the meeting with Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill at the end of July.
After the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya did not stop the war between local Islamist groups and the civilian government. However, it also considers Islam as the state religion, and to protect the Christian communities from the tyranny of armed gangs simply no. Among other refugees of the Libyan Christians are trying to move to Europe across the Mediterranean sea.
However, after the migration crisis of the middle of the 10 years there often are discussions about the need to stop the “smuggling of people” from Africa and other disadvantaged regions.
Nigeria. Sin in education
The share of Christian population: about 46%
In mid-July of 2018, leaders of the Christian communities of Nigeria issued a statement in which he called the situation in the country close to genocide on religious grounds. According to them, from the beginning, the religious conflict with Muslims in the North and centre of the country killed about 6 thousand Christians. They were victims of terrorist attacks, which most often is the radical group “Boko Haram” (prohibited in Russia). In the language of the Hausa people, its name means “Western education is a sin”.
This is another offshoot of the banned “Islamic state” (another name “Boko Haram” in 2015 – “West African province of the IG”). Its supporters it recruits in the Northern States of the country, in areas where in the Middle ages and modern times was located in the state of the African savanna who adopted Islam from Arab merchants and invaders from the Sahara. Christian peoples and tribes (in contrast to the nomadic northerners is mainly settled farmers), drawn in the late nineteenth century by the British colonialists, live mainly in the South of the country.
Since 1999, 12 Northern provinces switched to Sharia law. The main objective of extremists is to establish Islamic rule throughout the country. The Nigerian government, trying to keep a balance between Muslims and Christians, emphasizes the difference between radicals and law-abiding believers. In early August, 2018, the President of Nigeria muhammadu Buhari was awarded Imam Alhaji Abdullahi Abubakar from one of the Central States for the rescue of 300 Christians from raiders of the Islamists.
In 2017 to combat Boko Haram, the authorities have allocated $1 billion, and clashes in the North are more reminiscent of a real war. Army bombed villages, where you can escape the militants from the air, and those, in turn, destroy the strongholds of the armed forces.
Egypt. Old feud with new tools
The share of Christian population: about 10%
The Christian community in Egypt have existed since ancient times – the founder of the Coptic Orthodox Church, which includes the majority of local Christians is the Apostle mark. However, after the Arab invasion in the VII century Egypt has become an Islamic country. However, the conquerors were mild by the standards of the Middle ages religious policy: a thousand years of Coptic communities have survived and even enjoyed a certain independence from the authorities. But Islamic leadership never attempted to lead the country towards religious uniformity.
Relations between representatives of different faiths (and that is usually for the African peoples, because the modern Copts in the majority – are descendants of the indigenous population of Egypt, and the Muslim Arab invaders and migrants) has intensified after the Arab spring of 2011 and the overthrow of the authoritarian but secular government headed by President Hosni Mubarak. After his resignation came to power, the representatives of the Islamic movement “Muslim brotherhood”, and the country’s frequent attacks on Christians and the oppression of the Coptic communities. In particular, local authorities often blocked the opportunity to build a new Church (Open Doors cites the example of 1600 Christians from the village of Kom El Lufi, who could not get permission for the opening of the temple for more than five years). Laws on building Christian churches in Egypt dates back to the times of the Ottoman Empire, local Christians fighting for its liberalization.
In 2013, Egypt witnessed another coup: against the “Muslim brotherhood” joined the local military and the liberals, they were supported by the Coptic Church. However, a return to a more secular orders did not mitigate the contradictions between Muslim fundamentalists and Christians. The situation is aggravated by the terrorist acts of the local cell of the banned Islamic state: on palm Sunday in April 2017 bombers staged the bombings of the churches in Alexandria and Tanta (killed 16 and 20 people, respectively), and a month later unknown persons have shot the bus with the Coptic pilgrims in the province of El-Minya – killed 26 people. Egyptian authorities have responded to the aggression strikes on the terrorist camps in Libya.
Another murder of a Christian priest happened in Egypt in the summer of 2018: in the monastery Anba Makar on July 29, unknown beaten to death by his Abbot Bishop of the Coptic Church of the Epiphany.
Ethiopia. The southern border of Christianity and Islam
The share of Christian population: about 60%
Ethiopia is the only traditionally Christian country in Africa, and the Ethiopian Church considers itself the successor of the Apostle Philip of the seventy. It comprises about half of the citizens of the country – mainly the Northern and Central regions. In the four Eastern provinces of Ethiopia (mainly on the border with Eritrea and Somalia), the majority are Muslims (about one third of Ethiopians), and on the South and East is actively spreading Lutheranism (mostly Church Mekane in Liverpool). Religious division has national implications: Christianity among the peoples of Tigray and Amhara, Islam, the Somalis and the Oromo, part of which is inclined to Protestantism.
Clashes on religious grounds originate mainly in the East of Ethiopia on the border between Christianity and Islam. According to Open Doors, local Muslims are dissatisfied with the activity of Christian preachers and try to stop them through violence.
Kenya. Fee for peacemaking
The share of Christian population: ~ 84%
Christians in Kenya are the overwhelming majority of the population. Local Christians, mostly Protestants (Pentecostals, Quakers, Methodists, Anglicans, Lutherans and others), but there are also Catholics, and even Orthodox (Patriarchate of Alexandria). Unlike the countries of North Africa, this former British colony has experienced the strong influence of Islam and other traditional religions – this explains the relative freedom of conscience and the peaceful coexistence of believers.
The situation changed in 2011 after the intervention of Kenya in the civil war in neighboring Somalia. The actions of the peacekeepers who tried to protect the Northern regions of the country from the spread of violence caused by the response of the terrorist organization “al-Shabab” seeking to establish in Somalia, the radical Islamic rules. Some attacks of extremists are openly anti-Christian character: for example, in 2012 unidentified persons fired from grenade launchers and machine guns Catholic and Protestant churches in town of Garissa in Northern Kenya, killing 10 people. The attack occurred during prayers. In 2015, the militants “al-Shabab” seized the hostages-Christians at the University of Garissa, killing more than a hundred people. The expense of such attacks in the border areas of Kenya and Somalia already in the hundreds, in 2017 the victims of extremists more than 30 Kenyan Christians.
Mali. Between extremists and separatists
The share of Christian population: about 3%
Mali, another former French colony in Africa, which faced civil strife of all against all. Traditional religion in Mali is Islam, Christians, mainly Catholics, make up about 3% of the population. They have not participated in recent conflicts as an independent party and must rely on the Central government in ensuring their security.
Although another round of civil war in the country ended in 2015, the tension in Mali is still high. Confront each other, the civil government, Islamic extremists from the terrorist group “al-Murabitun” (a branch of the banned in Russia “al-Qaeda” in the Maghreb) and Tuareg separatists, founded in the early 10-ies of the unrecognized state of Azawad in the North-East of the country.
The militants are trying to oust Christians from “their” territories: in the fall of 2017 extremists looted and burned several churches in the Central part of Mali. For example, in the temple in Dobare to the North of the capital unknown persons have thrown the crosses and decorations of the altar and burned the statue of the virgin Mary. Radicals require Christians not to gather for prayer together, under pain of death. Themselves Catholics believe terrorists are a threat not only for themselves but also for moderate Muslims:
– Christians are not the only ones threatened and attacked. All the population of Mali was a victim, including Muslims, says the Secretary-General of the Malian Conference of Catholic bishops Edmond Dembele.