Nigeria (MNN) — Christians in Nigeria are saying, "Enough is
The Christian Association of Nigeria convened an emergency
meeting this week in response to the Boko Haram's latest violence.
What's clear is that the fanatical sect is growing bolder. Todd Nettleton with
Voice of the Martyrs says, "They have sort of expanded
their territory. They have gone after a United Nations office. They have gone
after government buildings. So they really have become a significant threat in Nigeria."
Having declared a holy war, the question became "Is Boko
Haram a threat?" Nettleton says all
indications say "Yes" — not only to Nigeria's stability and security, but
also to the religious freedoms of non-Muslims.
"They absolutely want Nigeria to be under Sharia law. The term 'Boko Haram' means 'Western
education is a sin,' so they clearly want to return the entire country of
Nigeria to what they would see as the traditional Muslim way–that is, for
Sharia to be in place for the whole country."
An imam closely associated with the group told his followers
that the only way to settle the sectarian question in Nigeria was to begin
jihad. The violence immediately spiked,
and the group is blamed for the deaths of 240 people this year, including 100 Christians in the last 30 days.
Since November 4, at least six churches were burned by
suspected Boko Haram members in a bombing that also hit a police station in New
Jerusalem near the Yobe State capital.
Elsewhere, four people died in coordinated
attacks: one at a college in the Borno State capital, while Mujahideen gunmen
attacked a church in Kaduna, shooting two female worshippers to death.
Church leaders urged believers to unify, but warned that the
persecution must stop.The Fellowship of
Churches of Christ in Nigeria then issued what seemed to be a veiled threat at
secession. According to their statement,
"Tarraya Ekklisiyoyi Kristi A Nigeria (TEKAN) is calling on well-meaning
Nigerians ahead of 2014 when Nigeria will be 100 years of her amalgamation to
decide the possibility of our remaining together in the face of the Boko Haram
activities that are no longer acceptable to many peace-loving Nigerians."
Could the church leaders be taking a page from Sudan? Nettleton thinks it's too early to say. "I think the frustration is very
understandable. When you talk about separating from a country and splitting
into two and all of that, those are
obviously huge issues and would take significant amounts of thought and
work." Rather than following a
separatist way of thinking, Nettleton adds, " I think what they hope for first,
is that the current Nigerian government and the military and the police will
work together to put an end to this threat."
Church leaders are urging those who have been affected by
the violence not to respond in kind. However, "The church does feel vulnerable, particularly in the
northern part of the country which is predominantly Muslim. That's where the churches feel that they are
a target and that they are not being protected."
It's clear that the Nigerian believers expect their government to
respond with more force. While arrests
have been made in some of the attacks, it's not completely reassuring. Christians are fleeing the worst-hit area
near the Yobe State capital. "This
is another bombing after the bombings that have happened earlier this year, so
the people in Nigeria see these bombings continue, and the very real
perception is: 'What has the government done? How are they going to stop these,
because so far, they haven't.'"
Voice of the Martyrs has been on the ground providing
medical aid to the Christians who've been attacked, but they also have been
providing encouragement. When asked
what provides the best and clearest hope, Nettleton responds, "The first
thing they're saying is: 'Pray for us' because they know these threats are very
real. They know that their safety is not anywhere close to guaranteed, and so
they ask for our prayers. They want to respond in a way that is effective. They
want to encourage their government to protect them, but they also want to
follow Christ's call to forgive those who persecute you and to love your
Pray for unity in the church body. Questions may be forming, and believers need
to be ready to respond. "As there
are these dangers, people are thinking about eternity because they know 'I
could enter eternity today. I could enter eternity tomorrow.' That does raise those questions. It can be a
time when people are more willing to hear the Gospel."