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Nigerian Bishop: Christians and Muslims Have a Common Enemy in “Secular Forces”

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Bishop Matthew Kukah says “If you are closing your churches, you are an accomplice.”

Now is the time for Christians to prepare for significant Islamic growth in America, says the leader of a small Catholic community in an area of Nigeria that is 80-90 percent Muslim.

As someone who leads a minority flock that is striving to coexist with a Muslim majority, Bishop Matthew Kukah has both cautionary and hopeful advice for Christians in the West. In an interview and a talk in New York City this week, the 63-year-old bishop spoke of continuing discrimination against Christians in Nigeria, as well as the radicalization of Muslims in movements such as Boko Haram.

Asked for his thoughts about the mostly Muslim flood of migrants and refugees from the Middle East and parts of Africa, as well as concerns about the U.S. government plans to take 10,000 or more refugees from Syria, Bishop Kukah said it was difficult to say what the outcome may be. And while it’s difficult to compare the dynamics in vastly different areas of the world, each with its own history and culture, the West might look to Nigeria’s experience for a few lessons.

Bishop Kukah, who has been bishop of the Sokoto Diocese since 2011, has been on a speaking tour of Boston, New York and Washington, sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need. Speaking at the Catholic Center at New York University Tuesday, he said the suffering of Christians in Nigeria is not a result of a religious conflict but of a conflict over power. “The challenge is how to create an egalitarian society in which the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and in which ordinary citizens enjoy their rights without any discrimination,” he said in prepared remarks.

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