It's unusual to find time to write on Christmas day given the busy and festive nature of the day. But silence is not an option following deadly events targeting Christians in Nigeria, as they celebrate Christmas in Africa's most populous nation. As we celebrate Christmas in freedom in free parts of the world, it's important to remember that many people around the world face persecution, discrimination and killings simply because of their religion. Many cannot practice their faith freely because it is either outlawed, threatened or not tolerated in the societies in which they live.
According to news reports, bomb blasts, including one at a Catholic church, targeted Christians in Nigeria on Christmas day - a Holy day on the Christian calender. This follows a recent spike in sectarian violence in the west African nation.
In 2010 Human Rights Watch urged the Nigerian government to investigate the massacre of at least 200 Christians in central Nigeria on 7 March 2010.
When talking about persecution, discrimination and killings because of religious views, the Coptic Christians in Egypt and the Ahmadis in Pakistan immediately come to mind, besides Nigeria's Christians who are increasingly being targeted by Islamists.
Non-Jewish Israelis, including Israeli Arabs, also come to mind. According to the U.S. Department of State, Israel's non-Jewish citizens (approximately 20% of the population) face "de facto discrimination." [Source].
Discrimination, persecution, killings and other forms of human rights abuses on grounds of religion or belief contravene Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and other international standards. Governments have a duty to protect freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
A radical Muslim group, Boko Haram, claimed responsibility for the Catholic church Christmas bombing. The group is reportedly in a campaign to impose Shariah law across Nigeria. It is worth mentioning that the same group claimed responsibility for Christmas eve bombings that targeted churches in 2010.
There is a growing need for the authorities in Nigeria to protect the nation's Christians.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion in Nigeria and elsewhere.
*Photo source: wsj.com.
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