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Christians still under attack in Africa

· Twenty-one dead in two attacks in Nigeria and in Kenya ·

The persecutions of Christians is never ending and Africa — a land where the presence of Christians is a sign of hope and openness — has once again been the scene of violence. And perhaps as some have noted, it is precisely their natural vocation to dialogue that attracts the ferocious hatred of those who, in comparison, perceive this hope and openness as a threat.

On Sunday, 29 April, two terrorist attacks in Nigeria and in Kenya reaped a toll of 21 dead and dozens of injured, including various children. The most serious episode was in the northern Nigerian city of Kano where a commando of terrorists opened fire at Bayero University. The assailants first threw several bombs near a campus theatre used by the Christians for religious functions and they then opened fire on the terrorized crowd that was seeking to flee. In the past Kano has been the scene of bloody attacks by the fundamentalists of Boko Haram, a terrorist group which aims to establish Islamic law throughout Nigeria. The Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the attacks during Christmas Mass in two Christian churches in Jos and for the slaughter at the headquarters of the United Nations in Abjua in August 2011.

At almost the same time on Sunday, a bomb was hurled at a church in the popular district of Ngara, Nairobi, in Kenya, just before the beginning of the religious service. The explosion caused one death and injuries to dozens, some of whom have been admitted to hospital in a serious condition.

From Rimini, Italy, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State, said he was deeply concerned about the repeated attacks. “We are living in increasing intolerance”, he emphasized, “an intolerance of Christians that is sometimes cruel and we are worried, because Christians on the frontiers of the world, in the trenches of the world, as has been noted in African countries and also in the Middle East, are a factor of balance, reconciliation and unity and not of conflict”. “It therefore seems strange”, the Cardinal added, “that there should be a struggle of intolerance and such strong aggression against Christians who make a contribution to reconciliation and peace, to justice and to solidarity”.

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, President of the Italian Episcopal Conference, continued on the same lines. “Religious persecution”, he said, “is unfortunately nothing new. It was hoped that it was something that had largely been overcome, but in fact in certain parts of the world this is not the case”. “African Christians, however”, he remarked, “are reacting to the persecutions with strength and with no desire for revenge”. The Jesuit priest Federico Lombardi, Director of the Holy See Press Office, described the attacks has horrible and despicable, to be condemned with the greatest determination. And the European Union, through a spokesperson, expressed the hope that the authors of the massacre are brought before justice as soon as possible.

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