“Nobody is safe: today it’s the Shia, tomorrow it could be us Catholics too,” says the Nigerian Cardinal John Onaiyekan.
Cardinal Onaiyekan explained to Vatican Radio that recently, for the government in Nigeria, the question of Shia Muslims has become an issue.
He said [Shia] followers have been holding protests to demand the release of their leader, Ibrahim Zakzaky, who has been detained in prison for the last four years.
Various tribunals and courts, he noted, have ordered that he be released, and the government has refused to obey the courts’ order.
Thus, Cardinal Onaiyekan said, the established Sunni majority in Nigeria “doesn’t want to recognize that the Shia are also Muslims, and because of this the government treats them with serious violence”.
He said Shia have been holding almost daily protests in the streets of Abuja for over a month.
“From my own understanding, the protests were always peaceful and we never saw them armed,” he said.
And yet, he noted, government soldiers and police have attacked them with arms, rubber bullets and tear-gas canisters.
News outlets said at least 20 members of the group were killed over the past week during the demonstrations.