Nigeria (MNN) — It happened in stealth mode: Boko Haram declared a caliphate in Nigeria.
Greg Musselman, a spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs Canada, explains, “Because of media in the Middle East, it’s drawing more attention, and the situation continues to go on in Nigeria.”
A month after declaring an Islamic State-like caliphate in Gwoza, militants surrounded Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. Residents expect an attack on what could be the group’s largest and most symbolic seizure yet. The city already hosts tens of thousands of refugees who have fled the group’s attacks elsewhere.
They’ve killed thousands since 2009, including at least 2,000 in 2014 alone. The U.N. estimates their attacks have created more than 470,000 internally displaced persons, in addition to some 57,000 refugees outside of the country.
It appears they’ve been emboldened by the success of the Islamic State, notes Musselman. However, the Boko Haram is at a distinct disadvantage by comparison. “They’re not getting as many foreign fighters coming in as what’s going on in the Middle East, but they’re becoming more bold. They’re definitely using the same kinds of tactics. They just don’t quite have as much money.”
There have been concerns voiced over multiple caliphates coming together into a juggernaut of Islamic extremism. Musselman agrees that “there are similar situations: there are beheadings, you’ve got the forced marriages, of course the situation where all these girls were kidnapped. Some of them escaped, and some 200 still remain in captivity.” However, working together long-term? “If all these groups came together and radical Islam took over the world, it would eventually implode. It’s violent. If you don’t go along exactly with what they think, they will take each other out.”
Already, there are rivalries between leaders in al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, and the Islamic State. Rivalries would likely occur between the different factions, too, VOM USA’s spokesman Todd Nettleton noted earlier.
As the caliphate is established, though, one thing is common: bloodshed. Christians are being purged out of the extremist-dominated areas. Yet, that isn’t stopping followers of Christ from sharing their stories or praying. “We’ve not ever been in a time in history where more Muslims are becoming Christians than we are right now,” says Musselman, adding that prayer is key in spiritual warfare. “I’ve met many from these kinds of groups that have had a dream or vision of Jesus, or found a Bible and became Christians. They become amazing evangelists. We need to continue to pray that God will get a hold of the hearts of the enemies of the Gospel.”
Scores of Christians have been killed, and numerous churches and a Bible school have been forced to close down, after militants from Boko Haram recently seized towns and villages in several states. “Boko Haram violence has been getting worse every day, and our members are fleeing the area by the thousands,” a church leader shares. “Borno and Adamawa states, where our churches are located, have seen Boko Haram take over the army base. As a result, about 350 Christians have been killed.”
What can you do? “Stand beside them saying, ‘We’re with them.’ The practical way is by helping ministries like the Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors, those that work with persecuted Christians in Nigeria. And then pray that God will give our brothers and sisters wisdom.”