In the first chapter of the 2020 Budapest Report on Christian Persecution, we can read studies about regional atrocities against Christian communities. In the first study, András Stefanovszky writes about the situation of sub-Saharan Christians in 2020.
In the introduction of his study, he highlights that fifteen out of the most vulnerable countries in the world are on the African continent. Furthermore, nine out of the ten most marginalised local crises are also in Africa.
The number of internally displaced people in Africa rose from 6.4 million to 14.5 million persons. The number of those forced to leave their home country rose from 2.3 million to 6.3 million in the last decade.
The author underlines that Christians are especially affected by these internal conflicts on the continent. On the Open Doors World Watch List of Christian Persecution of 2020, twelve out of the fifty countries are located in sub-Saharan Africa.
There are three focal points of the conflicts in Africa; the West African bloody quadrangle (Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger), the central conflict zone (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan), and the east coast (Somalia, Kenya, Mozambique)
In the study, the author presents these focal points from the point of view of local Christian communities and of their persecution.
Recently, the Islamist terrorist groups in West Africa have significantly increased their violent attacks and casualties, targeting especially the Christian communities.
Since 2015, the number of Islamist terror attacks has doubled every year in the Sahel, especially in its western part. According to these statistics, this area is the most exposed to religiously-based violence in Africa.
In Africa, the number of terrorist attacks has grown by thirty-one per cent from 2019 to 2020, and with two hundred per cent since 2011. It means that, in the year 2020, more than four thousand attacks have been carried out. Two thousand six hundred of these attacks took place in Western Sahel.
The active Islamist terror groups in the Sahel are the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Boko Haram, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) and Fulani herdsmen.
The study emphasises two countries’ situation, which are especially affected by terrorism at the time of writing: Nigeria and Burkina Faso. According to some data between 2015 and 2020, Boko Haram, the ISWAP and Fulani herdsmen carried out six hundred and five thousand attacks in Nigeria, killing thirty-two thousand civilians. 11,500 people out of the victims were Christians. More than two thousand Christian churches have been destroyed by Islamists in the country in the same period. In 2020, the number of attacks against Christian seminarians, priests, parish priests and bishops had grown spectacularly.
The Fulanis have recently carried out many attacks with the “retail killing” tactic, which means that they rose in number but reduced the intensity of their attacks. With this tactic, they want to trivialise the importance of their attacks.
Another target country of Islamist terrorism is the earlier centre of inter-religious communication, Burkina Faso. According to the government forces of Burkina Faso, the Islamists invaded the country from Mali and Niger, and now they dispose of a base in every region of the country. As a result, in 2020, Burkina Faso faced more terror attacks than any other country in the Sahel.
Christians are particular targets of these attacks, which is proven by the fact that in the December of 2019, on the first Sunday of Advent, fourteen Christians were massacred in a church attack in the town of Hantoukoura. The following year, on the 1st of February, in the town of Lamdamol, armed men assaulted the town’s Christian inhabitants, in all eighteen people, and executed them.
West Africa is currently the area with the largest number of refugees and internally displaced in the world. The problem of internal displacement is intensified by the coronavirus and hunger crisis.
In a later article, we will summarise the report of the two other focal points.