Nigeria (MNN) — A shootout in northeast Nigeria Sunday claimed
six lives, three of them members of the Islamist sect, Boko Haram, suspected of
cultivating links with Al Qaeda.
Boko Haram's war against the government now includes an ominous
new front: a war against schools. On
Friday, extremists planted a bomb
at a local primary school, although no one was injured in that attack, but at
least eight schools have been firebombed in recent weeks.
Embattled President Goodluck Jonathon tried to pursue diplomatic
means of settling differences, but following the breakdown in talks, Boko Haram threatened to intensify its bombing
campaign. Voice of the Martyrs Canada
spokesman Greg Musselman says, "Obviously, they want to enter talks
because the military/the resources they have to control the Boko Haram is
difficult. I guess they have to be open to the option of it. In reality, it's
just a collision of ideology."
Musselman also observes that it's no longer just Christians in the
cross hairs. "It's becoming more and
more dangerous, not only for those doing work like the Voice of the Martyrs
and other organizations like ours that work with persecuted Christians, but
those working in the oil field or on
the outside, and also for the Nigerian citizens themselves."
The insurgent violence stalking northern Nigeria now includes a
long list of official targets: police
and army officers, elected officials, high-ranking civil servants, United
Nations workers, and other perceived supporters of the Nigerian government.
More and more governments are taking notice. The 2012 report by the United States
Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has recommended that
Nigeria should be designated as a "Country of Particular Concern" (CPC). Over 14,000 Nigerians had been killed in
religiously-related violence between Muslims and Christians since 1999. That is expected to intensify, says
Musselman. "They [Boko Haram] have given basically an edict to the
Christians to get out or they will be killed–or they'll burn down their
churches, businesses, those kinds of things."
USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. Federal Government commission with
principal responsibilities to review the facts and circumstances of violations
of religious freedom internationally and make policy recommendations to the
President, the Secretary of State, and Congress.
Nigeria–which had been on USCIRF's Watch List since 2002–was first recommended for CPC
status in 2009. Presently, 10 countries–Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North
Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan–are designated as CPCs by the State
The question now is: what kind of impact does the threat of
violence have on evangelism? Musselman
says, "If [Christians] are meeting, they're going to meet where you've got
security and they can at least be somewhat aware of what's happening around
them and try to prevent these suicide bombings and attacks on the churches."
The other effect has been unity. "The church's desire to focus on
Christ is strong, and their desire for evangelism has increased. In fact, one
of the things that many of the leaders told us is that the reason the
attacks have intensified against them is because they are doing evangelism
and people are coming to Jesus Christ."
Pray for a peace that surpasses all understanding for those living
amidst the ensuing violence. Pray that God will give Nigerian Christians the
patience to entrust true justice into the hands of God. Musselman adds, "We need to be praying
certainly for the church in Nigeria: 'Thank you for not forgetting about
us' I think was one of the messages that was clearly said. But we also need
to be praying that the Lord will give the Nigerian church wisdom on security