A special Report by ICC
3/16/2013 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – With a failed attempt at a ceasefire between the Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram, and government soldiers, Nigerian Christians will likely continue to be victims of an unending conflict over the nation’s future.
Boko Haram, a radical Islamic movement, denounced any alleged ceasefire with the government, signaling their intention to further their violent campaign to destabilize the Christian-led government and turn the nation into an Islamic state under Sharia law.
In February, Boko Haram allegedly killed eight members of a Church of the Brethren (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria, or EYN) congregation outside Mubi in Northeastern Nigeria. But this was only one of a series of attacks during the month, as a result of which at least 15 people were killed and a church, a pastor’s office and various Christian-owned homes were burnt to the ground.
Violent attacks and persecution of Christians have been escalating at a disturbing pace over the past few months. On Christmas Eve in 2012, for the third year in a row, synchronized attacks against churches and Christians were carried out at Christmas time, taking the lives of pastors and church members in different regions and burning homes and churches to the ground.
After the wave of Christmas-day bombings, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in parts of four states that were hit by violence blamed on Boko Haram, particularly the bombings on Christmas that killed 49 people, most of them in a blast at a Catholic church as services were ending.
Earlier in the month, in Kupwal village in Chibok Local Government Area, suspected jihadists shouting, “Allahu Akbar [God is greater],” slit the throats of at least 10 people in carefully selected Christian homes, according to reports from survivors. In December 2011, about 30 Christians were killed in the towns of Yola, Lamurde, and Mubi alone.
On Nov. 25, eleven Christians were killed in a suicide attack on a church in Jaji. The bombers were suspected members of the Boko Haram group, also suspected of bombing a Kaduna church on Oct. 28, killing seven Christians. In October, Boko Haram killed 46 Christian students at the Federal Polytechnic in Mubi. The students were slaughtered or shot dead as the assailants went door to door ordering them to recant their Christian faith, instantly killing those who refused to do so.
In June 2012, a suicide attack on an ECWA congregation in Kaduna City, took the lives of at least 24 people, while 16 were killed in another suicide bombing at the Catholic Christ the King Cathedral, in the Sabon Gari area. Boko Haram took responsibility for both attacks.
According to the Nigeria Security Tracker (NST), a research project to catalogue Nigerian political violence, October 2012 was by far Nigeria’s deadliest month in the 16-month period since June 2011. In total, at least 600 people were killed that month as a result of Boko Haram’s terrorism, some reprisal attacks, an indiscriminate military campaign and rising communal conflict.
The terror attacks against Christians have become so common and the violence so horrific that Christians in Mubi do not step out of the house after 8 p.m. They are fearful of going to the market to buy food and basic provisions. Some of them are so afraid of extremist attacks they do not even go to church anymore. The Rev. Daniel Yumuna, a district secretary of the EYN said: “Businesses of our church members have all collapsed because they face attacks regularly, and living generally has been made very difficult here not only for our church members but for all other Christians in this part of the country.”
In the past few months, scores of Christians have been killed, hundreds have been injured and thousands have been displaced. Churches, homes and buildings belonging to Christians have been burnt to the ground by Boko Haram, who have vowed to eradicate Christianity from the country and are determined to see radical Islamist rule enforced across the nation.
Nigerian population is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south. But while Boko Haram, which has destablized the Muslim-dominated North, is responsible for most of the persecution of Christians and moderate Muslims, Nigeria’s military forces have also been to blame for indiscriminate violence that affects everyone across the board.
Unfortunately, the conflict seems to be without an end in sight. In January, so-called commander of Boko Haram, Muhammed Abdulazeez Ibn Idris, offered a ceasefire to the national government. But this was disavowed by the self-proclaimed leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, who threatened to kill Idn Ibris for making the offer and promised retaliation for any violence against the group. This announcement coincided with the killing of 20 members of his group in an encounter with the Joint Task Force of Nigeria.
As Boko Haram continues to subvert the Christian-led government to pursue its own vision for the country, Christians and moderate Muslims are reeling under the weight of an intolerable burden. But despite the unfathomable nature of persecution that is running rampant throughout the country, Christians are expressing their hope in the midst of despair. As EYN President Samuel Dali has said, “Sometimes we are mocked when we talk about peace. But hope is not lost. Even during the time of missionaries it was not easy. But still they came up with a strategy to make sure the gospel was shared. So a difficult situation cannot stop the word of God.”
A special Report by ICC