Nigeria (MNN) — The Islamist group Boko Haram has
claimed responsibility for a number of sophisticated attacks. The group
has strong links to al-Qaeda and has been growing quickly in the nine
years since its inception.
Jerry Dykstra, spokesman for Open
Doors USA, says, "We've known that the situation in
Nigeria has deteriorated this past year."
Recent attacks prove they're intent on making good their threats to push
for a caliphate (a government established in Islam) in Nigeria.
year, bomb attacks ripped through three churches in central Nigeria on
Christmas Day, killing over two dozen people. Investigators say the blast at
one house of worship near the capital city, Abuja, struck as the service was
ending and worshippers were filing out.
On Christmas Eve last year, a series
of bomb blasts around Jos killed 32 people and wounded more than 70 others.
What's disconcerting about the attacks
is that they're showing the militants have gone from sporadic bursts to
planning designed to create the most fear and chaos among Christians. Dykstra explains, "As a result of them
being more organized, we've seen more frequent attacks, (that has been
underreported, I believe) and more
coordinated, more sophisticated and even going into the South."
Nigerian leaders have been openly
criticized by opponents for their slow response to the growing security threats. Dykstra notes that the picture emerging
bears a chilling resemblance to Iraq's remnant church. "According to people living in the
country, the response of the government has been too slow. It looks like what happened in Iraq, where
the churches were attacked, and the government did not protect any of those
churches. Christians in Iraq fled."
Boko Haram's attacks risk reopening
old wounds between the mostly-Muslim north and largely-Christian south. Church leaders in the most vulnerable areas
are afraid they're being left to fend for themselves, a conclusion that Dykstra
thinks will take the form of more violence against believers in 2012.
The terror they've created and their
connection with al-Qaeda seems to have emboldened the Boko Haram. "What they want is really Sharia law all
across Nigeria, and they want some of their members released from jail. I think
it does not bode well for next year because there could be a civil war in
Nigeria, and that could have tremendous repercussions."
Civil war would mean a significant
disruption for church planters and others doing Gospel work. Pray for their partners. "Nigeria is such a key country for
Christians throughout all of Africa. They send out hundreds of thousands of
missionaries," Dykstra notes, adding that regardless of what happens in the
days ahead, "Open Doors is involved
with supporting Christians in crisis situations like this, giving holistic
community development, also distributing Bibles and training up leaders."