ROME: Attacks on churches in northern Nigeria “are not a small episode, but a systematic extermination” of Christians, although reprisals must also be condemned, Italy’s International Cooperation minister said Monday.
“It is clear that Nigeria is not able to keep order and protect minorities. Boko Haram wants ethnic cleansing in the north and Christians are the target. It’s not a small episode but a systematic extermination,” Andrea Riccardi said.
There has been no claim of responsibility for three bombings of churches on Sunday, but Islamic group Boko Haram has been blamed for many similar attacks.
The blasts in the northern Kaduna state, and reprisal violence that saw Christians target Muslims, are thought to have killed at least 45 people.
The founder of the influential Catholic Sant’Egidio community said in an interview with La Repubblica daily that “reprisals must always be condemned.”
However, “there is clearly a law of legitimate defence, no one can ask Christians to be martyrs,” he said.
“Boko Haram wants to provoke an anti-Christian front which will give local Muslims hegemony. It’s what al Qaeda did on a bigger scale,” he added.
Riccardi, who has close ties with the Vatican, said the Holy See “does not have the operational means” to intervene but “quite rightly reminds the international community and Nigeria of their responsibilities.”
In an appeal published in La Stampa newspaper, Italian members of parliament called for intervention to protect Christians from persecution.
“If there is still a whit of humanity and sense of justice alive among us, we cannot lose a moment. We have to mobilise on all levels to stop the hunting of Christians,” it said.
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