Christians not the only targets
Northern Nigeria is predominantly Muslim.
A SPATE OF ATTACKS on Christians in Kano in northern Nigeria has recently been carried out by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram (BH). Loosely translated, Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden or sinful.” Boko Haram sees Christianity as directly equated with the “sinful” West; as a result, Christians in Nigeria are often targets of BH attacks. Attacks on Christians have been intensifying since the first half of 2011. The Government of Nigeria appears unable to restrict the actions of BH and, if the outbreaks already seen this past January are any indication, it would appear there is little hope of reprieve from the increasing violence.
In January Christians in Kano received a threat from BH to “leave in three days or else,” an indication of the group’s intention to carry out religious cleansing in the region. (Nigeria is predominantly Muslim in the north and Christian in the south. Currently many of the northern states practice some degree of Sharia.)
BH’s plans for turning Nigeria into a country fully governed by Sharia law have been stated in the past. With the increased attacks over recent months and the apparent lack of protection by the Nigerian government, this threat struck a note of seriousness, and many Christians have fled the region. One eyewitness, who chose to stay past the three-day time limit, said, “Two days after the deadline, they started killing, shooting and burning. That’s why we left the place.” After the attacks began, some even took to hiding in wells and cisterns for days, not coming out until after the chaos had ended. Tragically, a reported 256 men, women and children – in some cases entire families – found nowhere to hide, and lost their lives.
Those who have been watching the recent activity of BH are alarmed at the widening range of their attacks. On Jan. 20, acting outside of their prior ‘normal’ methods of operation – attacking solely Christians – BH took responsibility for multiple bomb attacks on Kano police headquarters, other police stations and an immigration office. According to a video released by the group’s leader, the attacks were in response to a denied request to Nigerian authorities to release incarcerated members of the sect from custody. The widening assaults, coordinated attacks and demonstrated ability to maximize the body count have put many, including government and expert onlookers, on alert, as BH has progressed from a local menace into a full-scale insurgency.
The people of Nigeria fear that their government cannot protect them. The ineffectiveness of security forces, government inexperience with this type of extremist terrorism and ineffective or non-existent attempts to create dialogue between the competing communities have left Nigerians expressing a need to act on their own.
President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, has a difficult challenge ahead. When asked whether he was initiating talks with BH, he responded: “They are a ‘faceless’ enemy, how do you speak to a faceless enemy? They are the new, ugly face of terror.” Given the rampant and more broadly-focused attacks, BH are no longer just a concern to Christians in Nigeria – though they remain a primary target. They are now a concern to all Nigerians, and to international governments concerned with human rights and the peace of Nigeria.
Canada speaks up
Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, John Baird, issued a statement on Jan. 21 stating: “Canada unequivocally condemns these latest cowardly attacks (by the radical terrorist group Boko Haram) in Nigeria’s north.” He went on to say: “We stand with the people and government of Nigeria in their efforts to combat the vicious scourge of terrorism, to bring about stability and maintain unity in the face of this pressing challenge.”
What lies ahead? Experts predict the violence will continue to increase. Strong leadership will be required to avoid the significant potential for civil war. Boko Haram has declared war on any institution, on parliamentary law and order, and on anyone who will stand in the way of their ultimate goal: a country under full rule of Sharia law. They have promised more violence, suffering and killing, until their goal is met. And to them, Christians are public enemy number one. –EFC quoting Wall Street Journal, BBC News, Voice of the Martyrs, Compass Direct, Foreign Affairs. TAP