The Vatican has expressed sympathy for the two dozen victims of the latest terrorist attacks in Nigeria and Kenya targeting Christians, but has called on believers to not give in to the "temptations of hate."
Nigeria has been experiencing bombings and other attacks on an almost weekly basis since last year, and most of these attacks have been blamed on the Islamic fundamentalist group Boko Haram, who want to establish Islamic rule in a country divided culturally and geographically by Christian and Muslim lines.
The group has often targeted Christian churches and congregations, carrying out blasts and killing dozens even on the most holy of Christian holidays, including Christmas and Easter. This past Sunday, the northern Nigerian city of Kano was targeted when attackers believed to be part of the Boko Haram group threw bombs at Beryo University, where Christians had gathered for a religious service. The terrorists then opened fire on the fleeing crowd, slaughtering a total 20 people and wounding many others.
Four other Christians lost their lives in Nigeria on Sunday, in the city of Maiduguri, where terrorists opened fire on worshippers leaving church. Among the victims was the pastor of the Church of Christ in Nigeria, whose name was not given, the AFP reported.
Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, of the Vatican's Holy Press Office, condemned the attacks, calling them "horrific" and "despicable," but called on Christians in the region not give in to the "temptations of hate" and expressed the Vatican's closeness to the community there.
The persecution of Christians in the region does not end in Nigeria, however – in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, another Christian church was attacked by a man who threw a grenade during Sunday service, killing at least one worshipper and injuring 15 others. This time, the attack was blamed on the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab group from Somalia, which has also been active in the region in the past year.
Despite authorities pledging to do more to counter the growing problem in the region and address these terrorist attacks on Christians and innocent people, Islamic extremists continue carrying out their deadly operations.
In a statement issued by the Vatican, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State, expressed that intolerance against Christians has been increasing.
"We are living in increasing intolerance," he emphasized, "an intolerance of Christians that is sometimes cruel and we are worried, because Christians on the frontiers of the world, in the trenches of the world, as has been noted in African countries and also in the Middle East, are a factor of balance, of reconciliation and of unity and not of conflict."
"It therefore seems strange that there should be a struggle of intolerance and such strong aggression against Christians who make a contribution to reconciliation and peace, to justice and to solidarity," he added.