NIGERIA: Top Catholic news agency revives myth of the ‘primitive’

cnaA powerful US-based Catholic news agency has revived memories of the racist colonial tag of the “primitive” or “uncivilised” African by referring to Nigerian Muslim militants as “tribesmen”.

Zenit news agency reported on Monday that, “Muslim tribesman (sic) attacked two mainly Christian villages in Jos, located in Nigeria, earlier this month.”

The news agency used the word “tribesman” or “tribesmen” thrice in the short piece, which was based on a report by Morning Star News.

Morning Star News, which claims to be the only independent news service focusing exclusively on persecution of Christians, had not referred to the attackers as “tribesmen”, but as herdsmen.

Collins English Dictionary defines “tribe” as “a social division of a people, esp of a preliterate people, defined in terms of common descent, territory, culture, etc”; or “an ethnic or ancestral division of ancient cultures.”

Nobody refers to people in Europe or America as “tribesmen.”

Zenit news service, founded in 1997 as an independent agency, is owned by the controversial Legionaries of Christ priestly order whose founder, Fr Marcial Maciel, a close friend of Pope John Paul II, was involved in extensively documented sexual abuse of minors and had fathered children, whom he sexually assaulted as well.

The Vatican denounced Fr. Maciel, who died in 2008 aged 87, for creating a “system of power” that enabled him to lead an “immoral” double life “devoid of scruples and authentic religious sentiment.” The Legionaries congregation was placed under Vatican supervision.

In October 2011, six editors of Zenit resigned, saying the news agency had become too closely identified with the Legionaries of Christ.

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