African Christians in Diaspora Hosted a Historic Summit on Threats to Peace and Security to the African Continent from Terrorism and Issue a Call for Urgent and Concerted Action
The inaugural Pan-African peace summit hosted stakeholders and delegates from various African nations, Europe and the United States in Washington D.C. Metropolitan area, June 23-24, 2017. Heart-wrenching reports from victims of the killings, kidnappings, rapes, forceful conversions and social injustices by Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen in West Africa were presented. Presentations were made on the exacerbating Islamic State (IS) threats in North Africa as well as the plague of al-Shabaab in East Africa. Participants heard about religious conflicts and political instability in Ethiopia, the Congo, Central African Republic, for instance.
The largely eye-witness accounts indicate an alarming existential threat to Christianity and other religious minorities which had thrived over the past centuries in the continent. Christians have continued to face deep-rooted existential threats from the nefarious and malicious activities of murderous extremist Islamists and failed government systems. The magnitude of unprovoked attacks and persecution have escalated to unacceptable and unprecedented levels. Tens of thousands of lives have been lost and over 5 million are trapped either in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps or at Refugee settlements that require emergency humanitarian crisis responses.
The Summit opened on June 23rd with a keynote address from an octogenarian lawyer, Solomon Asemota, SAN, Chairman of the Nigerian Christian Elders Forum, entitled “A Quest for Peaceful Resolution of Conflict of Ideology, Democracy and Islamism in Today’s Nigeria.” Mr Asemota traced the history and transition of colonialism in Nigeria from British colonial rule to what he termed "Caliphate colonial rule" which he submitted is partly responsible for the rise of Boko Haram and the rampaging Fulani herdsmen, ranked as the first and fourth deadliest terrorist groups in the world. Mr Asemota concluded that for peace to reign in Nigeria, there is the need for her government to set up a South African model Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address the past and chart an equitable path for the future.
Mr Solomon Mengesha, an Ethiopian at the Yale University, Divinity School, who consults with the African Union on Peace and Security issues also spoke at the summit on “Christian Response to Islamic Terrorism in East Africa.” Mr Mengesha enjoined all people of goodwill to identify with the sufferings of victims of Islamist terrorism wherever it occurs.
Dusty Rhoades, a retired US Marine Colonel with both Active Duty and Reserve military service, including several Mideast combat tours and who served as a Congressional Fellow with two years’ experience in the U.S. House of Representatives, spoke on the topic “Spiritual and Practical Counterterrorism and Security Measures.” According to Col. Rhoades, the Islamist terrorists use three grievances to justify their evil - “The past conquests of Islam (the Caliphate), the injustice of the perceived present military and economic domination by the West, and the hatred of Israel and anyone who supports Israel.” The distinguished veteran gave a sobering assessment that the resolution of Islamist terrorism will take time. He urged Africans to pray and be proactive pointing out that the lack of strategic interests in Africa by major global geopolitical players means that Africans must save Africa.
The US State Department was represented at the event by Senior Advisor Pamela Pryor. Ms Pryor stated that the current US administration stands for freedom of faith and conscience for Christians and others who are persecuted for their faiths. She reiterated that the administration takes the threat of Islamist terrorism seriously wherever it rears its pernicious head – whether in the Middle East, Europe, Africa or elsewhere - and said the US president was personally appalled when the Egyptian Christians were beheaded for their faith by ISIS.
Speakers from Mali, Senegal, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Rwanda and UK gave diverse accounts of the atrocities of Islamists and the devastation of individuals and communities. Moving accounts by the lone survivor of a Boko Haram massacre in Mubi, Nigeria, Mr Ike Nzeribe, brought many to tears. Mr Nzeribe narrated how Boko Haram terrorists executed mourners gathered at a wake for victims they killed the previous day, which marked the end of a 3-day deadline for Christians to leave northern Nigeria in 2012.
Five years after he was flown out of Nigeria for urgent life-saving treatment, Mr Nzeribe continues to have maxillofacial surgeries for the lethal headshots. "I had faith before the attack but I appreciate it more now. The terrorists didn't ask if we were Catholics or Anglicans. They shot us because we were Christians," he testified.
The reports of intractable conflicts and terrorism on the continent suggest some long-term agenda by Islamist extremists and their sponsors is being strategically implemented. This Islamist agenda in Africa further compounds the numerous burdens already borne by weak and vulnerable Africans which include resource competition and inequitable power sharing, unemployment and underdevelopment, failed youth engagement, ethnic hostilities and other complications. Deep-rooted issues such as post-colonial legacies, feudalistic Islamist Jihadism, distributive injustice, marginalisation, ethnic polarisation, and bad governance compromise the peace and security of the continent which is supposed to supply the world’s largest workforce by the end of the 21st century.
After a thorough analysis of these issues, expert presentations, and recommendations, the Summit:
- Strongly condemns the atrocities and destruction of human lives and properties of innocent non-combatant Christians, ethnic/religious minorities and moderate Muslims in its entirety by violent extremist non-state actors.
- Strongly asserts that enough is enough of the callous religious discrimination by certain African governments and institutions via official obstruction, imprisonment, employment discrimination, support/impunity for perpetrators of violence and failure to protect Christians and the oppressed.
- Will engage with the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, African Union, individual States and relevant actors to address, mitigate and end further escalations of these apocalyptic attacks that in recent times claimed more lives in Africa from terrorism than anywhere else.
- Will develop strategic short, medium, and long-term plans to help the African masses and set up pragmatic structures and systems to respond appropriately in concert with other entities.
- Calls on all Christians and peace-loving people worldwide to step up and support efforts such as activation of sophisticated early warning systems to alert targeted communities, to mitigate the impact of terrorism till peace reigns in Africa.
- Calls on the international community to scale up counter-terrorism and humanitarian crisis responses in Africa which currently lag behind the Mideast responses.
- Will engage the media, faith communities and policymakers at all levels to bring deserved attention to the plight of victims of Islamist terrorism in Africa.
- Calls on Africans in Diaspora and friends of Africa to act individually and concertedly to bring about positive transformation on the continent. The time to stand up for the soul of Africa is now.
“All it takes for evil to triumph is that good persons do nothing” (Edmund Burke, 1729-1797).
Further, the Summit commends:
- French president Emmanuel Macron for his commitment to the Sahel 5 counter-terrorism coalition including his two visits to Africa since coming to office and urge the inclusion of anglophone countries in the coalition
- US Vice President Pence for rightly acknowledging Islamist terrorism for what it is and recognising persecution in Nigeria during his recent remarks at the Billy Graham Summit on Persecution
- Nigeria's Acting President Osinbajo's remarks to the AU Summit that Africa must confront existential threats facing it
- The USA for pledging additional funding to Africa at the G-20 Summit
Signed, July 10, 2017
Prof. Emmanuel Emenyonu
Chair, Organizing Committee