Nigeria (MNN) — Boko Haram recently suffered a setback when a Nigerian Army operation killed a Boko Haram faction leader and media spokesman. Ahmed Sale was one of the leaders of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), the Boko Haram faction that abducted Leah Sharibu and over 100 other Dapchi girls.
However, Boko Haram has proven resilient to losses in the past. Its members are driven by hardline Islamic ideology — something that can’t just be stamped out through military solutions.
Illia Djadi, World Watch Monitor’s Africa Bureau Chief, explains, “The Nigerian government continues to claim that they have technically defeated Boko Haram, but what is happening almost on a daily basis on the ground is telling a different story. Boko Haram is still active and Boko Haram is still capable of carrying out large-scale attacks — attacking civilians, but also attacking military facilities in northern Nigeria and also in neighboring countries; namely Niger, Cameroon, and Chad.”
Just last Friday, Boko Haram’s ISWAP faction claimed an attack on a military base in northeast Nigeria that killed three soldiers. The extremist militants also recently hacked 12 farmers to death in their fields, claiming they suspected the farmers were secretly reporting on the group to the military.
The Nigerian Army continues to target and eliminate key Boko Haram leaders, but Djadi says more needs to be done to get to the core problems that prop up the extremist group.
“They need to deal with the root cause, and one of the root causes is poverty. When you have people in that area without any hope — no job, no perspective — and the only perspective in that area is about Boko Haram…which is giving them a sense of living, some kind of power, some kind of economic benefit, someone somehow has to act and to fill that gap. For now, Boko Haram is filling that gap and providing the solution,” Djadi says.
“It’s also about the kind of support Boko Haram is gaining from some people who are using Boko Haram for political reasons. Boko Haram, for some, has become a business, making money out of it. So it’s a very complex issue which requires a comprehensive approach.”
Christians in Nigeria are especially targeted by Boko Haram because of their refusal to embrace Islam. Boko Haram also perceives Christianity as a “Western religion,” further fueling their hatred of Nigerian believers.
Despite the danger that Christians in northern Nigeria face, local churches are reaching out to their communities with the hope of the Gospel. This, says Djadi, is a key solution to the problems that lead people to support Boko Haram.
“We need to support the churches and make them in a position to deal with the root cause of that poverty by setting up schools, health facilities, [and] development projects so that…children can be able to go to school [and] go to university, and after university, to get a job. That is what is missing. That is what is needed. And that is what the churches are doing — filling the gap.”
So what can you do? “I would say first, pray for them. But also, do something. I’m not asking people to leave the US to come to Nigeria…but support the churches active in that region.”
Open Doors USA is one ministry you can give to and support the persecuted Church in Nigeria. Click here to donate!
Finally, please pray for Christians in northern Nigeria to persist in reaching out to their communities with aid, development projects, and the eternal hope of Jesus Christ.
Header photo courtesy of Open Doors USA.