Nigerian pastor tells MPs of Christian persecution: 'We don't have liberty'

Politicians crammed into a room in the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday afternoon to hear about Christian persecution in northern Nigeria.

A bombing in Nigeria claimed by Boko Haram. Open Doors reminded the UK government Christians faced attacks from Fulani herdsmen and officials as well as the Islamist terror groupReuters

More than 35 MPs and peers attended the launch of a report by persecution charity Open Doors, including shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn, minister for international development Desmond Swayne, and former shadow business secretary Chuka Umanna.

Zoe Smith, head of advocacy for Open Doors, told Christian Today after the event that politicians were reminded Christans did not just suffer attacks from Boko Haram but also from Fulani tribesman and Islamic local government figures.

The UK government, she said, was aware of attacks by Fulani people on Christians but it was not their main focus. "We ask ministers to ensure UK aid is evenly distributed across northern Nigeria including areas affected by Fulani herdsmen's attacks."

Smith continued: "Our report indicates aid had not been reaching Christians in these areas to the same extent as the far north." In 2014, UK aid to Nigeria totalled £237m.

As well as Smith, parliamentarians heard from Nigerian pastors who spoke of attacks they had faced. One church leader touched on another of Open Doors' recommendations to ensure a commitment to religious freedom. "Our constitution guarantees liberty, but we don't have liberty," he said.

Open Doors' report called for a full investigation into atrocities in northern Nigeria as records of attacks are "relatively poor," Smith told Christian Today.

"I am hoping MPs and peers will take our full recommendations and bring them to the government whether in written questions or letters to ministers.

"If implemented the recommendations would go a long way to help Christians in the north of Nigeria to have equal rights and a lack of discrimination.

"We do not want Christians to receive preferential treatment over Muslims. We just want equal treatment."