Boko Haram spreads fear throughout Nigeria

By August 31, 2011

Nigeria (MNN) — A suicide car-bomb attack that killed 23 at
the United Nations headquarters in Nigeria's capital last week has been claimed
by a radical Muslim group with ties to the world's deadliest terrorists.

Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs explains, "Boko
Haram actually translates into 'Western Education is a sin.' So this is a
group who is very much opposed to what they would consider the westernization
of Nigeria. They want the entire country to be under Sharia law. They want all
the people of Nigeria to be Muslims."

What's more ominous, Nettleton says, is that "Boko Haram has a history of attacking Nigerian targets:
police stations, government buildings, that kind of thing. This is their first
reported attack on a Western target, but it shows, I think, what some of their
ultimate efforts are going to be."

The sect wants to implement a strict version of Sharia law
in the nation and has reported links to African terror groups al-Qaeda in the
Islamic Maghreb and al-Shabab of Somalia. There were humanitarian aid groups housed in the building and other
agencies present to help the region recover from natural disaster and war. However, Nettleton doesn't think that's how
the hardliners viewed it. "The
attack comes from that mindset that 'these are Westerners who are (in their
words) invading our country. We've got to do whatever we can to get them
out.'"

Nigerian police arrested 50 suspects in connection with the Abuja
attack. However, the cycle of violence
undermines the stability of the government headed by President Goodluck
Jonathon, who is also a Christian. "The cycle typically in northern Nigeria is this: there are attacks, the
government comes in, the army comes in, they try to put a lid on it, and they
sort of stamp down the fire. It stays
down for a little while, and then there's another attack, and the cycle begins
again."

Although the President issued a statement against last
Friday's attacks calling them "barbaric," there are concerns that the attacks will
show a weak government and–should it continue–cause the people to look for
someone who can bring the violence to heel.

What that means is: more attacks on vulnerable groups. One group that has already been struck hard
multiple times this year is Christians.
Asked if persecution will likely continue to worsen in this
scenario, Nettleton responded, "There are radical groups who want to rid
Nigeria of a Christian presence. They will attack Christian; they will attack
churches. That will happen this year."

VOM has a strong presence in Nigeria, though. Aside from their normal aid, "We work
with Nigerian Christians to get Bibles into the hands of people in Nigeria.
Another program is our VOM medical program which provides medical care for people who
are affected by acts of persecution."

People like church planters, Gospel workers, and church
leaders have been increasingly targeted. When they are killed, they often leave behind families. VOM is part of stopping the cycle of
violence here. "We are involved in
a children's home that, in particular, focuses on the children of martyrs, the
children of people who have been killed for their faith, providing them with a
place to live, providing an education for them, and really, training up the next
generation to lead the church in Nigeria."

The church continues to grow. Pray that Christians in Nigeria will
demonstrate the love of Christ, in spite of the opposition they
face. Pray, too, that
Christians in Nigeria will take action to help their suffering brothers and
sisters elsewhere in the country.

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