Is Nigeria the next Iraq?

By September 23, 2019

Nigeria (MNN) — The Nigerian Army says Boko Haram terrorists are “on the run,” but is it the truth or a public relations stunt?

Islamic State and Boko Haram militants are gaining control in northern Nigeria, warns Reuters. At the same time, Nigerian media claim military tactics are working. The Army’s public relations director says terrorists are retreating en masse to Sudan and Central African Republic.

Lately, Boko Haram terrorists have been showing up in Cameroon and Niger, which border Nigeria to the west and north, respectively. Last weekend, 100 Boko Haram militants torched an evangelical church in northern Cameroon.

“All the evidence is pointing [to] not only has the government lost control of the northern part of Nigeria, but [the crisis is] going to leak over to other areas,” David Curry with Open Doors USA says.

“You could have a situation like you had in northern Iraq, where a group like Boko Haram tries to set up a caliphate, or they control a whole swath of territory.”

In this detailed timeline, The Wilson Center describes the Islamic State’s rise and fall in Iraq. Christians were a primary target for the Islamic State – also known as ISIS or Da’esh – just as they are for Boko Haram.  Nigeria’s government seems unable to contain the crisis – just as Iraq’s government was unable to contain the spread of ISIS.

Read our past coverage here to find more similarities.

Nigeria by the numbers

It’s been ten years since Boko Haram began their reign of terror. Here’s a quick look at the rise of Boko Haram and why they’re targeting Nigeria’s Christians. In 2015, the militants joined forces with ISIS, but the groups went their separate ways a year later. Today, Nigerian believers face threats on three fronts: Boko Haram, the Islamic State, and Fulani herdsmen.

(Photo courtesy Open Doors USA)

As MNN reported in July, Islamic extremists killed 25,000 Nigerians during the last four years alone. A new report from the International Red Cross says 22,000 Nigerians remain missing. Of the missing, 8,000 are children stolen by Boko Haram for slavery, marriage, fighting, or to be used as suicide bombers.

The Nigerian government’s response to this crisis is largely unimpressive.

“[It] has really responded poorly and ineffectually, so it’s in their best interest to not draw attention to how badly things have gone in the northern part of the country, Curry says.

“Years now have passed; millions of people have been displaced. Christian villages are the most affected because they have been the targeted people group. But, others have been hurt and are missing as well.”

How to help

As when the Boko Haram crisis began, prayer is the best way believers can help. However, when it seems prayers for Nigeria have gone unanswered over the years… why pray?

Curry says, “We know that these are often spiritual battles, and we don’t always see what’s happening behind the scenes [but] we need to really be obedient and advocate on their behalf.”

Find prayer needs here, or use the prompts on the side of this page. Open Doors places Nigeria 12th on its World Watch List, citing Islamic oppression as the primary driving force behind persecution.

“These are our brothers and sisters in Nigeria who are being persecuted for one reason, and that is because they have become followers of Jesus. We cannot let violence against them go unchallenged.”

You can also meet persecuted believers’ tangible needs. Open Doors USA partners with local churches to strengthen, support and equip persecuted believers in northern Nigeria. Contact Open Doors here to learn how you can help Nigerian believers.


Header image depicts Yana Gana, a Nigerian mother still waiting for her daughter — one of the missing Chibok girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014.  Photo, caption courtesy Open Doors USA.

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