Nigeria (MNN) — The dictionary defines a “franchise” as “the right or license granted by a company to an individual or group to market its products or services in a specific territory.”
By that definition, Nigeria’s Boko Haram has entered a franchise. They are now calling themselves the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP).
Last month, ISIS accepted a pledge of allegiance from Boko Haram leader, giving the group its first foothold in sub-Saharan Africa in its efforts to create a global caliphate. Open Doors USA CEO David Curry isn’t really surprised. “These are two groups–Boko Haram and the Islamic State–that believe the same thing. Their ideology calls for them to persecute Christians, push Christians out, to restrict freedom of religion, and other freedoms, as well, for the general population.”
Slick marketing made the message of ISIS palatable. Still, the overt destruction of Christians and others wasn’t quite as obvious. Curry says, “Now they’re admitting to it. It really calls for our government and the NATO government to pull together and have some sort of plan and strategy for how to attack this kind of radical Islamic movement.”
Boko Haram is a nickname, given to the group by Nigerians when it was formed in 2002. In Hausa, it is roughly translated, “Western education is forbidden.” Originally disorganized, they weren’t taken very seriously until 2009. Suddenly, they had money, strategy, and power. On their own, they sowed terror in Nigeria.
The move to come under ISIS means Boko Haram, now ISWAP, will be more deadly, estimates Curry. “They’re going to use those weapons to try to attack churches, to try to restrict freedoms, to try to gain a caliphate in northern Nigeria, in Niger, and in that entire region.”
The group’s tactics could change and give the conflict in Nigeria a new dimension, Curry adds. “Boko Haram has access to the tens of millions of dollars in resources and weapons that have been captured and developed by the Islamic State.”
ISIS has been trying to recruit from Africa. Propaganda reveals a focus on Tunisia, Algeria, the Sinai Peninsula, and West Africa, or the “Libyan Arena.” Two mass murders involving Egyptians and Ethiopians were recorded and circulated around the world. Many of those victims were Christians. “Our call is really just to draw attention to this, to try to help Christians wherever they [are, and to try to rally Christians here in the West to support their brothers and sisters around the world,” Curry adds.
The North American Church has been surprisingly silent on this issue. Accompanied by the lackluster government response, Curry says, “We need to be people of prayer. We should be talking about the persecution of Christians from every pulpit on Sunday morning and lifting them up in prayer.”
Open Doors supports Gospel workers in the middle of it all. Why? “Because,” answers Curry, “the Church of Jesus Christ is right in the middle of it. So, we’re doing a lot of trauma counseling with these people who’ve been attacked by Boko Haram, who’ve lost family members.”
Open Doors encourages you to get involved, too. Aside from talking to your elected representatives on Capitol Hill, he says you can give. Also, “Let’s pray that God would protect His people, and also that the minds and the strategy of Boko Haram [and] the Islamic State would be foiled.”