Metropolitan Leonid: Situation of Christians in sub-Saharan Africa is worsening - Exarchate of Africa
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Metropolitan Leonid: Situation of Christians in sub-Saharan Africa is worsening

The organizations positioning themselves as human rights watchdogs turn a blind eye to dreadful developments in sub-Saharan Africa where the plight of Christians is getting desperate, Metropolitan Leonid of Klin, Patriarchal Exarch of Africa, said in an interview to Sputnik news agency.

– According to the latest statistics, the scale of persecution against Christians in the world has increased dramatically over the past 30 years. The situation in sub-Saharan Africa, especially in Nigeria, is marked by great tensions. This is a long-standing and mounting problem. Why does every attempt to take the situation under control fail?

– Indeed, over the recent years and even over the past decades the plight of Christians in sub-Saharan Africa has only been getting more desperate. While the number of Christians is growing fast in the region, here they are also subjected to the most severe persecutions. This is now the case in Nigeria where Christians face the greatest persecutions. Every month, perhaps even every week Christians are being killed on religious grounds. Why do all attempts to take control of the situation fail? In our view, it happens because in order to rectify the situation we first need to face the truth with all openness and honesty and admit at all levels, both international and governmental ones, that what is going on here is the genocide of Christians and persecution for faith, rather than politically driven clashes or conflicts on ethnic and social grounds, as some try to present it. These are persecutions on religious grounds, persecutions for faith, and until the truth is revealed to everyone, until it becomes a subject of discussion and a cause for practical steps, the situation won’t change. And if we don’t speak openly about the existing problem, failing to call things by their proper names, it will never be resolved. Today the problem affects not only Nigeria, but also partly the neighbouring countries, such as Niger, Cameroon, Mali, and Burkina Faso. We may assume that those very forces that benefit from the destabilized situation in central and western Africa take advantage of the problems existing in the north of Nigeria, in terms of inter-faith clashes.

– What measures, in your opinion, can be most effective in providing protection to Christians in Africa and the Middle East?

– The Russian Orthodox Church has clear views on the matter, a clear answer to this question. At the very onset of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, while on a visit to Syria, said that the primary task for religious leaders throughout the world is to reveal the truth to the world community about the plight of Christians subjected to persecution, to make it impossible to conceal true facts or turn a blind eye to what is going on, as well as to raise their voice at every opportunity, using every possible meeting and especially large international forums as a platform, starting from the UN and ending with the biggest humanitarian and peace-making organizations on our planet. This is the first step in defending Christians in Africa and the Middle East.

The next step is an appeal for action, for concerted efforts aimed at providing relief aid to the suffering Christians, and the Patriarchal Exarchate of Africa is actively engaged in this work.

At the same time, measures have to be taken to make sure that the genocide of Christians is not used as a political factor for exacerbating the situation in certain countries, for overthrowing political regimes. This appeal should be addressed not only to political forces within those countries, but especially to the outside actors who are now interfering in many countries’ affairs, trying to play the religious card. This is the case with literally all the African countries where Christians are facing persecutions, and not only with Africa.

– The world community keeps a close eye on how human rights are protected in western countries. In Africa and the Middle East, Christians are becoming victims of awful crimes. Does this problem receive sufficient attention from the world community?

– As I’ve already said, there is a great imbalance in how much attention international organizations, even such authoritative ones as the United Nations, direct to the issue of human rights in western countries, say, to the topic of Ukraine which is today on the agenda of various influential global speakers and receives, as we know, one-sided coverage, and to the plight of peoples of Africa and the Middle East. The organizations positioning themselves as human rights watchdogs turn a blind eye to dreadful developments in the region where the plight of Christians is dangerously critical.

Still unfolding in Syria, Iraq and Yemen is a years-long tragedy for Christians and other groups of the population. However, there has been no mention thereof at large international forums, and relevant reports are extremely rare to come out. Nothing at all is being said about Yemen where war and hunger are almost daily reality, resulting in depopulation. As for Africa, which is within our direct jurisdiction, we can compile a very long list comprising, perhaps, half of the countries on the continent where horrible crimes are being committed against human rights, including on religious grounds and the population is suffering due to food shortage. Western countries cynically use it when it comes, for instance, to blocking or resuming shipments from Russia. It is being declared that Africa will receive foodstuffs, while all this food ends up somewhere in Europe and becomes a loot of the same European agents who are reselling foodstuffs, fertilizers, etc. Even at the global level Africa’s problems and needs are an object of manipulation.

Yet, while many African countries can be defined as troubled ones and have to deal with the problem of human rights violations, I don’t want to say above all else that these countries have some imperfections in their internal structure. In this regard, we do not criticize local authorities because, when it comes to African problems, most of them have been instigated from the outside. This is their major characteristic. We shouldn’t forget that Africa as a continent is rich in resources. It has mineral resources, vital for the existence of today’s large corporations, including those in the IT industry. Africa is a continent where the local population’s labour is ruthlessly exploited. This is very cheap labour.

To escape death from starvation, people have to work in mines in improper, unbearable conditions. Naturally, keeping the African population in such a state requires manipulations that involve exacerbating the situation in this or that country, wars and civil clashes, especially on religious grounds. It is good fishing in troubled waters, and large international corporations, to begin with, are doing exactly that, using the African region to replenish their resource base. This is a major problem which, of course, receives no attention from the world community. More is to say, an analysis of the situation can lead us to the conclusion that, so to speak, the most civilized part of the world community perhaps even exploits Africa’s problems. Today we’ve come to this point in discussions of the African problems. May God help that it come to end, that Africans be no longer an object of manipulation for the most powerful global actors pursuing their own goals. We on our part take every possible measure and will continue our efforts to defend Christians and render assistance to the African population.

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