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Nigeria addresses the question: When is a terrorist group not a terrorist group?

By August 17, 2012

Nigeria (MNN) — You know
the saying: 'If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like
a duck, then it probably is a duck'?

It implies that an
unknown subject can be identified by observing habitual characteristics. In this case, it's the group Boko
Haram that has been hard at work spreading its message of "Western Education is
sinful."

According to the Associated
Press, the group is responsible for attacks on schools, churches and police
stations. In the first six months of
2012, they killed well over 600 people and injured thousands more. They've
declared a jihad on Christians in the North and are pushing for Sharia law
throughout the country by whatever means possible. Yet, the government does not want them
identified as a terror group.  

Nigerian
government officials are protesting the U.S. State Department listing Boko
Haram as a "Foreign Terrorist Organization." It's a move that "boggles the mind,"
says Voice of the Martyrs USA spokesman Todd Nettleton. "In June, the State Department designated three of the top Boko
Haram leaders as 'Specially Designated Global Terrorists.' So the three top
leaders are terrorists, but the group itself is not a terrorist group? It makes
no sense."

Nettleton goes on to say it appears that "the status quo is working for them in the financial
and trade areas even if it is not
working for them in terms bringing a stop to these attacks."

There
are concerns that such a designation would give the group credibility and embolden them to more attacks. The government also says Nigerian travelers
would be inconvenienced by embarrassing scrutiny, humiliation and
harassment. "It
just complicates matters," says Nettleton, explaining the government rationale, "because it places restrictions on
travel, it places restrictions on aid. So from the government's perspective,
they don't want those restrictions; they don't want those issues to be raised. So they have said, 'Please don't call them a terrorist group.'"

Yet, Boko Haram's
objectives have been clearly stated. "This is a group that is trying to make Nigeria into a
Sharia state. They want to follow Sharia law. They have told the Christians,
'If you want peace in Nigeria, you should become Muslim because Islam is the
only religion.'" Their actions, in any
other context, would be considered terrorism. 

The government's
stance on the terror designation sends an odd message to the Christians who
have been caught between the desire to avenge loved ones, protect themselves,
and yet 'turn the other cheek.' Nettleton
notes, "The Nigerian government, while they
don't want the world to call them a terrorist group, seems completely incapable
of stopping the Boko Haram from these attacks."

Lack of
recognition or effective deterrence is fueling more dissatisfaction. Despite the frequency of the attacks, there's
been little attention paid to the plight of the Boko Haram's targets. Nettleton says, in fact, "The U.S.
Government has said, 'Poverty has really caused this. It's not a matter of
ideology. It's really a matter that the people are poor and they're
disenfranchised. That's why they've
blown up your church.' That's not even the reality.  I think there's a frustration that the world
doesn't recognize what's going on in Northern Nigeria."

However, Nettleton says even though the circumstances have
created incredible fear among Christians, it hasn't stopped the advance of the Gospel. VOM has come alongside to provide
support as needed, but he says, "Pray for the protection of all of our
brothers and sisters there, those who
are doing the Gospel work. I think, secondly, we can pray for fruit. We can
pray that they will find receptive hearts, receptive minds, and people who
really want to know the Truth."

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