Declining Christian Faith in the West 'Absolutely' Hurting Nigerian Church, Bishop Says

(Photo: Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)Christians take part in a re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday along a road near St. Leo's Catholic church in Lagos, Nigeria, March 25, 2016.

A Nigerian bishop warned that the widely reported decline of Christianity throughout the Western world is "absolutely" having a negative affect on the Catholic Church in his country.

Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto accused American and European politicians of "pandering" to Islam, and pointed out that Arab nations are pouring money into Nigeria, which is roughly divided between its Muslim and Christian populations.

Kukah told Catholic News Service that evangelical Christianity is on the rise in Nigeria, but the growing secularization of the West comes at the expense of the Catholic Church.

"From my own experience, I find that the British high commissioner, the ambassadors from European countries, the American ambassador — they are pandering more to Islam than to Christianity, because most of them have turned their backs on Christianity," Kukah said.

"The Arab world is pouring money into Nigeria and the Pentecostal pastors in America are doing the same, and the Catholic Church is now becoming the weakest in terms of access to resources," he pointed out.

The bishop observed that Catholic influence on society in Nigeria is diminishing, and said that historically Catholic nations like Ireland and Spain are no longer interested in helping the church.

"In Ramadan, the ambassadors of Islamic countries are very keen to come to the Muslim celebrations in a way and manner that the Irish or any of these ambassadors are not likely to do for [Christmas] midnight Mass or the Easter celebrations," he pointed out.

Kukah said that ambassadors from Catholic nations would even prefer to go to a Muslim celebration than attend a Christian ceremony.

He pointed to John Kerry, former Secretary of State for the U.S. who identifies as Catholic, as a "perfect example" of this.

"He (Kerry) landed in Abuja. The American Embassy is in Abuja. There is a cardinal in Abuja, and a very visible cardinal for that matter, but it doesn't cross the mind of John Kerry to even see out of courtesy the cardinal. He takes another plane to Sokoto and goes to the palace of the sultan, the head of the Muslims," Kukah noted.

"The reaction of the Nigerian Christian community was very interesting. They thought Kerry was pushing the Islamic agenda," he added. "This was ahead of the elections, and they thought he was giving the Muslim candidate a leg up."

Several national surveys have documented the loss of religious faith in numerous Western countries, including the U.S. and the U.K.

A survey commissioned by the Church of England in September, for instance, found that only six percent of British adults are practicing Christians, defined as those who read the Bible, pray, and attend church on a regular basis.

A Pew Research Center study from 2015, meanwhile, found that Christians are declining sharply in America in terms of population share, finding that both mainline Protestants and Catholics are experiencing big drops.

Pew noted that overall Christians shrank from 78.4 to 70 percent between 2007 to 2014, while those without a religious affiliation increased from 16.1 percent in 2007 to 22.8 percent in 2014.

Nigeria's Christians are some of the most targeted believers in the world, and have been the victims of terror attacks by Islamic radical groups such as Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen.

The first wave of the mass trials of over 6,600 Boko Haram suspects finally began earlier this week, in the wake of Christians urging the government to deliver justice for the faithful, including children, who have been killed by the terrorists.

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