At a time of tragedy for Christians in Africa, President Donald Trump is taking a stand.
When Trump stood on the White House lawn on Monday for a joint news conference with the president of Nigeria, he made a statement supporting Christians on the continent that drew little notice from the White House press corps, but echoed for religious communities around the world.
And it should have every American cheering.
In the appearance with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, Trump deplored the ongoing religious attacks on churches in Nigeria by mainly Muslim herdsmen from the dominant Fulani tribe.
“We are deeply concerned by religious violence in Nigeria including the burning of churches and the killing and persecution of Christians. It’s a horrible story,” Trump said, according to Christianity Today.
“We encourage Nigeria and the federal state and local leaders to do everything in their power to immediately secure the affected communities and to protect innocent civilians of all faiths, including Muslims, and including Christians.”
To most American listeners, that might have sounded like an even-handed statement. But it probably carried a good deal of meaning to Christian churches in Africa as well as the Muslim government of Nigeria. Because in Nigeria today, the news is more about Muslims butchering Christians rather than the other way around.
It’s Fulani herdsmen who are the chief suspects in an attack on a morning Mass in central Nigeria on April 24 that killed 19 Christians, including two priests, according to CNN.
And making Trump’s message even more pointed: Buhari himself is a Muslim who has endorsed instituting Shariah law in the country’s Muslim north, according to the BBC. He is also a member of the Fulani tribe, according to The Guardian.
However, Buhari was elected in large part because Nigerians believed he could end the country’s chronic Muslim insurgency, BBC reported. A retired major general in the Nigerian army, he actually ran the country as its military ruler from January 1984 until he was deposed in a coup in August of 1985, according to the BBC.
After the April 24 slaughter in Nigeria’s Benue state, Buhari issued a statement condemning the violence:
“Violating a place of worship, killing priests and worshippers is not only vile, evil and satanic, it is clearly calculated to stoke up religious conflict and plunge our communities into endless bloodletting,” he said, according to Reuters.
The Nigerian nation knows a lot about terrorist bloodletting. It has been plagued by the terrorists of the Boko Haram group for years. With the government seemingly impotent, some individuals have taken the fight into their own hands.
At the White House on Monday, Buhari partially blamed the unrest in his country on instability spreading throughout the continent from Libya, according to a White House transcript of the event.
However, no one has been arrested in connection with the Benue attack and Trump clearly wants the Nigerian government to take a stronger stand against the killers.
“We’ve had very serious problems with Christians who have been murdered, killed in Nigeria. We’re going to be working on that problem, and working on that problem very, very hard, because we can’t allow that to happen,” he said.
No one familiar with Nigeria today — including the Muslim butchers attacking Christians — could have misunderstood that statement.
Because behind the even-handed tone, Trump was taking a stand.
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