Bonn (Fides Service) –“Solidarity with Persecuted and Discriminated Christians in our Day ” is the slogan of a second annual campaign launched by the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Germany to increase awareness and reflection on the situation of persecuted Christians and all oppressed peoples. In various parts of the world in fact Christian communities and individual Christians are persecuted, oppressed, denied religious freedom. In other countries believers are threatened or killed for their commitment to promoting justice and peace. This year the campaign focuses on the critical situation of Christians in some parts of Nigeria.
Addressing all Christians in Germany, and recalling similar situations in Europe under National Socialism or Communism, the Bishops say it is the duty of every believer not only to pray for religious freedom but also to work effectively to promote religious freedom. “Very often today situations of persecution of Christians are ignored or put to one side ” said the President of the German Bishops Conference, Cardinal Karl Lehmann, who presented the solidarity campaign to the public.
The Bishops’ Campaign has three elements: prayers for the persecuted, with special recourse to Saint Stephen the first martyr; informative material with regard to situations of persecuted Christians distributed in all parishes; suggestions for regular mention of persecuted Christians in Sunday bidding prayers.
The first such campaign launched by the German Bishops last year 2003 drew attention to the plight of Christians in Vietnam. This year the country chosen is Nigeria. The complex situation in this densely populated country is illustrated with photographs, articles and personal statements in the material distributed in parishes throughout Germany
“The situation of Christians is critical in central northern Nigeria where the people are mostly Muslims and it has become even more serious since 12 northern states adopted Sharia Muslim law –Cardinal Lehmann said -. Although Christians staged peaceful demonstrations to protest Muslim extremists reacted with violence in which many were killed and church structures damaged”. Nigeria has a population of about 130 million 50% Muslim and 40% Christian (26% protestants, 12% Catholics, 2% new African Christians) and 10% other religions. (MS) (Fides Service 3/2/2004 – 28 lines, 368 words)