More than 65 Catholics crowded into the rectory at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in San Francisco to hear firsthand stories of Christian persecution in Nigeria and Asia as the Archdiocese of San Francisco concluded Religious Freedom Week with prayer and discussion on the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul June 29.

“It is a Christian genocide,” in parts of Nigeria, said Via Christi Society priest Father Raymond Dzungwenen Tyohemba.

Recalling the kidnapping of 300 Chibok Nigerian school girls by the Islamist terror group Boko Haram in 2014 that drew world attention including former first lady Michelle Obama, Father Tyohemba said, “Many people don’t remember or do not know that all those girls are Christian.”

Another 110 Christian girls were kidnapped more recently, forced to convert to Islam, and then all but one released because that young woman refused to renounce her Christian faith, he said. “I ask you to pray for her,” said Father Tyohemba, who has been in residence at St. Paul of the Shipwreck but returns to Nigeria in mid-July.

While some in the international media paint the conflict in what is known as the Middle Belt of Nigeria as one between Muslim herdsmen and Christian farmers, Father Tyohemba disputed that, saying that in St. Ignatius Church Mbalom parish neighboring his Sacred Heart Parish Udei in the Diocese of Makurdi, on April 24 two priests and 17 parishioners were slaughtered by Islamists as they celebrated early morning Mass. “Why are they doing it? They want to chase the Christians away,” he said.

Father Tyohemba was joined in the panel by Father Daniel Asue, parochial vicar at St. Anne of the Sunset, who also spoke of the religious persecution in Nigeria. Two other speakers spoke about Christian persecution in Asia but asked that their identities be concealed for fear of repercussions in those countries.

Full story at Catholic San Francisco.