ROME-- A prayer vigil is being held in Trastevere for Christian victims of persecution in Kenya and Nigeria.
The Catholic community of Sant’Edigio has organised the event, to be hosted by Monsignor Matteo Zuppi, the auxiliary bishop for central Rome, in response to increasing levels of violence directed against Christian communities in the two countries.
Both countries have suffered a recent surge in bombings on churches, with Nigeria in particular in the spotlight for attacks on Christians, who make up slightly over half of the population. Although religious tensions have long been rife between Muslims and Christians, the emergence of radical Islamic sects has caused the situation to escalate. The most well-known of these, Boko Haram, was behind last year’s Christmas Day bombings which killed 41 churchgoers in four Nigerian cities, and has so far been responsible for more than 450 deaths in the country.
The group gained notoriety in Italy in March after it claimed responsibility for the kidnap and murder of Italian engineer Franco Lamolinara. Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi has been vocal in condemning the sectarian violence, saying “I am horrified by news of the barbaric killing of members of the Christian minority in these two African countries. I condemn this atrocious massacre utterly.” He has been working actively to promote interfaith dialogue, recently co-chairing a conference on the subject in Jakarta. In addition, Italian carabinieri and Guardia di Finanze officers have been dispatched to Nigeria to train local law enforcement in the hopes of improving public order.
The Vatican has also voiced its alarm over the increase in anti-Christian terrorism in the two countries. “The new terrorist attacks in Kenya and Nigeria at Christian celebrations are horrible and despicable acts,” said Holy See spokesman Federico Lombardi. Vatican ambassadors from several countries will be in attendance at the prayer vigil this evening, as will members of Rome’s Kenyan and Nigerian communities. The service begins at 8:30pm this evening (Thursday) in the basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere and is open to all.
The aftermath of the Christmas Day bombings which killed 41 Nigerian Christians