The House of Commons held on debate on the growing violence in Nigeria following the attack to a Catholic church on Pentecost Sunday.
Unknown assailants attacked the congregation with guns and explosives during mass on 5th June – it left 22 people dead and 50 recovering from injuries.
Christian MP Fiona Bruce tabled an urgent question in the House of Commons to ask the government about their role in helping religious groups in Nigeria.
Bruce, who is also the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB), asked the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, Vicky Ford if she agreed the latest attacks are a “FoRB issue as the attacks are mainly on largely Christian communities?”
She continued: “Will she agree to meet the APPG delegation and me to hear how local faith actors and non-governmental organisations need more support to bring faith communities together? What can the Government do to support the Nigerian constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion and of freedom from discrimination? How does the Government’s partnership with Nigerian security forces and legal services support the apprehension of perpetrators and prevent increasing acts of impunity across Nigeria?”
In her response, Vicky Ford condemned the “heinous” attack and stressed “the importance of those responsible being brought to justice in accordance with the law”.
She also said the UK government is working “closely with religious leaders” and is also “liaising with the authorities in Ondo state to encourage a thorough investigation”.
Ford continued: “We are committed to defending freedom of religion or belief for all, and to promoting respect between different religious and non-religious communities.
“We will continue to encourage the Nigerian Government to take urgent action to implement long-term solutions that address the root causes of such violence.”
Christian DUP Jim Shannon, also weight in in the debate, he asked the Secretary of State: “In the Minister’s discussions with the Nigerian Government, the state governors and the British high commissioner, is it clear that the duty of any Government is to protect their people first and foremost, to keep them safe from murder and to ensure their right to worship their God as they wish to do? What help can the UK Government give to the Nigerian Government and the military to combat terrorism in general, ever mindful that the military were involved in operations in 30 of the 36 states of Nigeria?”
Ford replied: “In terms of support, we have a number of programmes running in the country. We are working with the military on training, for example on human rights. I have heard that that has been making a difference. It is a very complex situation, but we stand ready to support where we can.”
Authorities have not given any information about the identity of the attackers or their motive.