Nigeria (MNN) — Some Nigerians think the May 14 state of emergency (covering Adamawa, Yobe and Borno States) is a short- term solution to a deeper problem. Amnesty with Boko Haram was seemingly put on hold as the government launched a military offensive to end Boko Haram's four-year uprising.
Caught between the rampage of the Boko Haram, youth poverty, and alleged Army brutality, there seems to be little reason to trust anyone.
The situation could deteriorate further in the blink of an eye. On Saturday, while attending an African Union summit, U.S. secretary of state John Kerry warned against human rights violations even as he acknowledged Nigeria's right to defend itself against the Islamic terrorist group threatening the country's north. Spokesman with the Voice of the Martyrs Canada Greg Musselman explains, "They're not just targeting Christians; they're targeting anybody that is against their ideology. That's why they're blowing up police stations, government buildings, and attacking anybody that is not with them and their brand of militant Islam."
While Boko Haram's drive to turn Nigeria into a Sharia state has claimed 3,600 lives since 2009, it is not on the state department's list of designated foreign terrorist organizations. The National Counterterrorism Center Web site also describes Boko Haram as a terrorist group, yet up until recently, traction has been slow with help fighting the insurgency. The normal rules don't apply, notes Muselman. "I can appreciate, I suppose, on one hand John Kerry saying, ‘We need to protect against human abuse and human rights violations.' I understand all of that. But the reality is that these guys, the Boko Haram, are brutal murderers. They will do anything they can, and they don't play by the same rules."
Last month, the Voice of the Martyrs Canada reported that militants had begun an "Islamization campaign" in Gwoza (also located in Borno state). In this situation, residents were threatened by gunmen who were going from door to door, demanding that the family members within each household profess allegiance to Islam at gunpoint.
Church attacks are still prevalent. An assassination of a well-known church leader last month rattled nerves. But still, Musselman says the message being preached in the streets and from the pulpit is the same. It takes on a whole different meaning in light of the stains painting the doorsteps of so many churches. "'We need to love those that are doing this to us. We are committed to advancing God's kingdom in Nigeria, and we will not resort to the same kind of violence.'"
According to the new 2013 edition of the World Watch List produced by Open Doors, Nigeria is considered the most dangerous country for a Christian to live in. Musselman says, "Terrorist organizations are trying to spark terror. That's what they're all about. If they get people worried about coming to church or proclaiming the Gospel, or not joining with them or living in fear and cowering, well then, they've accomplished their goal."
Church leaders are responding to hate with the love of Christ. In some places, followers of Christ come to church armed, in case they need to fight their way out of a service. More and more Christians are getting used to the increased security and the sight of armed guards at the front door of their houses of worship. That is actually what is doing the talking for them. Mussleman explains, "Even at times when they know there's potential of the church being blown up, especially at Christmas and Easter and special holidays, they say, ‘We're still going to meet. Jesus is still in control, even in the midst of violence.' Many Muslims are also seeing that, and it's opening their eyes up to the Gospel."
While many Christian families have been able to flee from these volatile areas, a small minority of remaining residents are now living in constant fear of further unexpected attacks. Musselman says they're coming alongside this remnant. "There are many ways that we're helping them and encouraging them. Nigeria is one of the biggest works that our Voice of the Martyrs family does, as well as Open Doors, because of all the need there."
Please continue to pray for the surviving victims of the attacks, as well as those who have tragically lost loved ones. Pray for wisdom as they respond to the Boko Haram, as well as to the Muslims in their community. Pray that the hope of Christ shines through and that hearts will be changed as a result.
There is an amazing story of forgiveness here. These Nigerian Christians share their hope and their joy.