“What has happened over the last few days is horrific and barbaric”. Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi doesn’t mince his words when he condemns the massacres in Nigeria, just hours after the latest attack on Christians. The authors of the attack are probably Boko Haram, who had already struck out against Christians at Christmas 2011. The same organisation was involved in the tragic kidnapping of the Italian citizen, Franco Lamolinara.
Minister, President Jonathan’s Government seems more and more powerless, just like the international community. Can Europe continue to keep quiet? Will Italy be advocating some initiative?
Italy has not kept quiet about these brutal massacres. It will continue to speak up, loudly, with concrete initiatives designed to prevent all forms of violations of freedom of belief and religion – a fundamental human right. Anyone failing to speak up in the presence of discrimination based on religion is an accomplice to that offence.
The Foreign Ministry’s Special Envoy, Margherita Boniver, recently visited the border region between Nigeria’s Islamic north and the mainly Christian south. Everyone repeated the message that this is not a religious war, but episodes intended to destabilise power. Is that the only key to interpret and find an answer to these events?
Margherita Boniver is doing a great job as my envoy. Indeed, from 18 to 20 April she was in Abuja where, acting on my instructions, she met the Nigerian Foreign Minister, as well as Christian and Muslim religious authorities. She will be continuing shortly with new missions.
Whatever key of interpretation we use it is clear that, in the framework of the social and economic differences between a southern Nigeria that is rich in energy resources and a northern Nigeria that is more backward, intolerance towards the Christian minority is playing an important role and must be stopped. It was from this perspective that, at the latest G8 meeting, in Washington on 11 and 12 April, my colleagues and I appealed to the Nigerian authorities to protect innocent civilians and ensure that those responsible for the violence are brought to justice.
Massacres in Nigeria, massacres of Copts in Egypt that have still gone unpunished, daily persecution in Pakistan. To mention just a few examples. Do Christians who find themselves in a minority have only themselves to rely on?
It’s absurd to think that Christians have been left on their own to tackle a problem that must, on the contrary, be addressed by the entire international community. That community must be more determined in seeking solutions that will bring an end to this dreadful violence. Commitment by the UN is essential. But in Brussels, too, I have asked the European ministers to take action to ensure that the question is raised – firmly and with determination – in all international fora.
Thanks to our initiative, the defence of freedom of religion was included in the closing communiqué of the G8 meeting in Washington. And just a week ago, with the Foreign Minister of the country with the biggest Muslim community in the world, Indonesia, I co-chaired an international conference in Jakarta on inter-faith dialogue.
Terrorism has changed its face, one year on from the death of Bin Laden. The axis has shifted, and it is no coincidence that three of the main groups inspired by Al-Qaedism are operating in Nigeria, Somalia and North Africa. Hasn’t the world lowered its guard on this front? Couldn’t the true threat to the West come precisely from there?
The question of the fight against terrorism, and more in general all forms of organised crime and illegal trafficking, in the African continent is highly topical. It presents a very real threat to the stability of one of the world’s key regions. Italy’s commitment against this scourge is both determined and constant, including through training the local forces of law and order, as in the case of Nigeria, where our Carabinieri and Guardia di Finanza are training the local police.
Tomorrow I’m travelling to Ethiopia, where I’ll be addressing the question of the stabilisation of the Horn of Africa. But alarming signs are also emerging from the Sahel region, as we have seen with the kidnappings of Italian citizens. In my recent missions to the region, and most notably to Algeria on 15 March, I found that the authorities there are well aware of the serious dangers linked to terrorism, including the way it acts as a brake on economic and social development.