A Nigerian bishop said Christians who fled Boko Haram’s attacks have faced “open discrimination” in refugee camps and have been forced to eat leaves to survive.
Around 3,000 families – 15,000 people – have been supported by persecution charity Open Doors, which has provided food and cash to help them survive for the next few months.
Many of them are from Gwoza, the city declared by Boko Haram as the capital of its ‘caliphate’ in 2014.
Because of the discrimination they have faced, Christians are gathering in informal camps. Bishop William Naga, leader of the Borno chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, said: “The governor did his best when the Christians had to flee their places in 2014 and 2015. But when the care of the camps was handed over to other organisations, the discrimination started.
“They will give food to the refugees, but if you are a Christian they will not give you food. They will even openly tell you that the relief is not for Christians. There is an open discrimination.”
Jack van Tol, Open Doors director for West Africa, said: “We’re very grateful to be able to assist families who were suffering so much. Reports reached us through our church networks that many Christians were in dire need of food aid. Many had resorted to eating leaves.”
Bishop Naga said: “Christians in Borno State are traumatised, displaced and truly they have lost hope. In the Gwoza area there is no single church standing. In the eastern part of Gwoza Christians were a majority. And even inside Gwoza town and in its surroundings there were many Christians. Now there are no Christians left in that area.”
He asked Christians to pray for them, saying: “Let our brothers continue to pray for us that we will not give up our faith, but that we will continue in our faith dynamically, strongly, vibrant and bold. [In] Most of our places everything has been looted, churches have been burned down. Our livelihood has been taken away from us. But there is one thing that has been not taken away: our faith in Christ Jesus has not been taken away from us.”