Nigeria (MNN) — A lack of religious freedom in sub-Saharan Africa has thrown the region into turmoil.
“This is the first freedom, so to speak,” says David Curry, of Open Doors USA, while describing religious freedom. “It’s the place where . . . people are being pressured for issues of conscience. If you cannot decide for yourself if you’re going to be able to read a Bible and worship freely and go to church . . . you’re not free at all.”
A land in chaos
And that certainly describes the situation in Nigeria, along with Cameroon, Chad, and Burkina Faso. Militant Islamic group Boko Haram has been ravaging the land for years, killing and kidnapping Christians and others. And the situation only seems to be growing worse.
Curry says, “You have a clash of civilizations of sorts [with] a lot of Christians in the South of Nigeria, and Islamic Sharia law states in the North. And for a long time, Nigeria has been the most violent place, that we can measure, against Christians.” Curry says North Korea, for instance, may be a more violent place for Christians, but the danger there is not as easily measured.
Boko Haram is always getting bolder, Curry says. “You have weak, weak governments that are responding very slowly and ineffectually and it’s really emboldening Boko Haram in a way that I think is problematic. We could see them conquering . . . what they would call a caliphate where they feel like they own an entire region that would cross three or four different country boundaries.”
The rest of the free world can learn a lesson from this.
Curry gives the example of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. When ISIS began bombing churches, Open Doors called attention to it. Nobody reacted very strongly, having become desensitized to religious violence. Then things got worse and ISIS began conquering huge sections of land. Now that situation has become a horrible humanitarian crisis.
To Curry, the loss of religious freedom always points to worse things down the road. “So I think the free world needs to worry about [this]. When you don’t protect these religious minorities, it has a way of tipping over into a greater chaos for the entire world community.”
How can Christians help?
Why should any of this matter to Christians living in the United States? “On a biblical basis,” Curry says, “it matters because we’re called to pray for people in chains and who are suffering for the name of Jesus. . . I think that we have to stay rooted in that.”
Christians are to be peacemakers, Curry says, and should be thankful for and cultivate religious liberty in the United States an all over the world.
Christians should also pray for peace to come to the surrounding countries, and that the power of Boko Haram would be shattered by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Boko Haram (Photo courtesy of Think Defence via Flickr/CC2.0)