Nigeria in talks with Boko Haram

By August 28, 2012

(MNN) — Nigeria's president has taken a controversial step in trying to end
the insurgency plaguing his country.

Goodluck Jonathon is engaged in back-channel talks with leaders of the Boko
, a militant Islamist group blamed for the murder of over 600 people since
the beginning of 2012.

The group's main targets of elimination are Christians, and
their near-weekly attacks on churches have borne out their commitment.

President and CEO of Open Doors USA Carl Moeller reacts to news of the negotiations: "Having
talks with these people? It's a bit crazy, in my opinion." Specifically, precedent has already been set
for the success of such talks. "The
experience of the Afghan government talking with the Taliban, the experience of
the Pakistani government talking with the extremists in Swat Valley shows that
you don't engage conversation with terrorist groups and expect them to

Compromise does not exist in Boko Haram's lexicon. "Boko Haram has committed itself
ideologically to  the elimination of Christianity,
particularly in northern Nigeria, but making all of Nigeria an Islamic state."
Boko Haram, whose name in Hausa means "Western Education is sin," has gotten both better funding and better organized
in their efforts.

This marks the second time the government has engaged Boko Haram
in negotiations. Moeller disagrees with
the notion. "I feel like it's
absolutely a dead end for the Christian community in Nigeria–for the
entire nation of Nigeria–for them to engage in conversation with those that are
so intent on destroying the fabric of freedom and the church in Nigeria."

Since most of the victims have been pastors and Christians, there
has been growing concern that the Church will begin to fight back, which could
lead to civil war. However, last week,
the National President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Pastor Ayo
Oritsejafor denied that. At the end of a special council meeting, Oritsejafor
said that the association will continue to pray for the peaceful co-existence
of the country.

to a news release from their Web site, Oritsejafor is quoted as saying that "we will not encourage our
people to carry arms against anybody whatsoever the situation may be. For those
that are behind Boko Haram, you come to us with AK47, bombs, charms and other
dangerous weapons, but we come to you in the name of God."

Moeller agrees. The first
line of defense is prayer. "Pray that the Nigerian government would
understand that compromising on the rights of its citizens, Christians, in the north
in order to obtain a political solution to
this crisis, will only result in losses of more freedoms, more restrictions, and
more violence against Christians in those areas." 

The second defense: awareness. That's where Open Doors can help. They've got more information about partners they work with and the back
story to the scenario in Nigeria at their Web site. Once armed with the facts, Moeller encourages
believers to get involved.

The last line of defense, says Moeller, are the tools. Open Doors equips church leaders with training,
tools and mentorship to help them work toward a consensus for peace and biblical
response to the campaign of violence.

Despite the fear and concern rising in the Church body, they
haven't forgotten their first love. Moeller notes the courage of believers
under fire. "Some of the most
dynamic and growing churches in the world are in southern Nigeria. The progress
of the Gospel continues to go forward."

Believers are gearing up for more, but not for the reasons you
might think. Moeller calls it the "paradox of persecution."

extremism rages in people's hearts, it produces a deeper vacuum, and that
vacuum can only be filled by Jesus. Sometimes they don't even know that, but Jesus
is still moving in people's hearts, even in the midst of this violence."

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