There’s no pattern and little evidence, but periodically, and without warning, another Christian is shot or stabbed – almost always fatally – in the Nigerian town of Maiduguri.
Experts on the persecution of Christians in that part of the world say the Nigerian Muslim terrorist group Boko Haram has been implicated in the murders, which have happened intermittently in the Christians’ own homes.
Open Doors USA President Carl Moeller says Boko Haram’s motive for the killings is simple: The Muslim group wants to take over in the north.
“As we know, one of the goals of Boko Haram is to create a Shariah, Islamic law, society in Nigeria. Their intentional use of this sort of terroristic activity is designed to further their ends of that,” Moeller explained.
“Our co-workers in the city have said basically [Boko Haram] continues to use attacks to disrupt the public peace and have people literally flee, particularly the Christians, flee from these cities,” Moeller said.
Moeller said the violence is highly organized and has a very clear objective.
“It’s more specifically something like religiocide or religious cleansing. They recognize no other possibility of society based on anything other than Shariah law,” Moeller said.
International Christian Concern analyst Jonathan Racho agrees that the group wants to establish Islamic law in the north. He also says that while Boko Haram pushes Shariah, they also try to win influence by portraying Christianity as a “foreign religion.”
“Their strict interest in Shariah law is why they look at Christians and say Christians promote Western ideas and are opposed to the Islamic way of life,” Racho said.
But Racho added that Boko Haram has an even more sinister purpose.
“One of their goals is to eliminate Christianity,” Racho said.
Moeller agrees that one of Boko Haram’s objectives is to eliminate Christianity from Nigeria. He also says the group’s level of extremism pits them against the government of Nigeria.
“They’re at odds with the government of Nigeria and other parts of Nigeria where even moderate Muslims would admit the presence of Christianity. Boko Haram is truly one of those groups that wants to see Christianity eliminated from the country of Nigeria,” Moeller said.
Racho added that Christians aren’t Boko Haram’s only target.
“Even moderate Muslims have been killed by this group,” he said.
Racho added that there’s one feature of the current series of attacks that sets it apart from other acts of anti-Christian violence.
“They kill a Christian and after a few days they kill another Christian. After a few days they kill another Christian. We don’t know how long it’s going to continue. We are really alarmed by these killings,” Racho said.
Moeller agreed that Boko Haram is using fear as a weapon on the region’s Christians.
“There’s a great deal of ongoing tension and Boko Haram continues to exploit and play on the fears of people in the area,” Moeller said.
Moeller also believes that many Americans don’t understand the dynamics of Nigeria’s religious rivalry.
“The question of motivations is almost lost on us in America because we don’t really grasp the intensity of the religious hatred that goes on in the division between [Muslim] northern and [Christian] southern Nigeria,” Moeller explained.
While both Moeller and Racho agree that the aim of the terror campaign is to force Christians out of northern Nigeria, Racho believes the one-at-a-time method has another purpose.
“This campaign is carefully organized to avoid media attention. That’s why they’re not burning down houses or villages. They’re very systematic, and they don’t want the media attention. They’re succeeding in sowing fear in many of the Christians and many have already left their homes,” Racho stated.
Moeller said the terrorist group is more than willing to take advantage of the departure of more Christians.
“They move in where Christians have vacated and take over the social
and political control of that area,” Moeller said.
Moeller added that the terror group has its sights on the predominantly Christian southern half of the country as well. He saaid that’s especially tragic because of the growth of the Christian church in the south.
“The southern part of that country is one of the most vital, powerful, growing churches in all the world. So, this is a formula for an extreme amount of confrontation, violence and death in the area,” Moeller said.
Racho said Nigerian security forces have moved into the northern area in an attempt to restore order.
Moeller added that the government is attempting to prosecute the perpetrators when they are able to find and capture them. However, he said Nigeria’s Christian president Goodluck Jonathan is acting to avoid the appearance of showing favoritism to Christians.
“He has to promote general peace because extremists in his country would exploit any support that he would show to Christians as confirming their inaccurate statements that the president is actually trying to eliminate Islam from the country,” Moeller stated.
One of the government’s responses to the terror attacks is to send a six-man fact-finding mission to Borno state, but even with the fact-finding mission, Moeller believes the government’s options are limited.
“I can clearly see the connection between what Boko Haram is trying to do and that the way the government’s hands are somewhat tied,” Moeller said. “If Boko Haram stops its attacks, then the government is able to restore public order.”
Moeller added that the government has some tough choices if Boko Haram continues its terror campaign.
“When they (the group) continue to provide more fuel for terrorism and more terroristic activities then the government has to be cautious in its response to that. Otherwise, the government will provide justification for the Boko Haram message. It’s a very precarious situation for the government there,” Moeller explained.
The Nigerian clash between Muslims and Christians is just one of many similar confrontations going on across Africa.
There are reports nearly half a million people, including many Christians, have been driven from their homes in Ivory Coast following the internationally sanctioned installation of a Muslim as president.
Other clashes have been reported in Kenya and Egypt.
WND recently has reported that Egyptian Christians say they are under siege following the Muslim Brotherhood’s integration into power.
Reports document attacks by armed gangs on about 60 Coptic Christians during a protest at a national television headquarters and suggest that the Egyptian army has been part of the aggression.
Christians have been demanding without success that the government prosecute the perpetrators of the attack and the burning of the Mar Mina church in the Cairo neighborhood of Imbabba on May 8.
A dozen people were killed and more than 200 were injured there.
Egyptian human rights activist and journalist Wagih Yacoub was an eyewitness to the violence and describes the assault on Christians as an ambush.
“The army left. They were not there and they did nothing after the attacks. Other criminals came and attacked the Christians. We asked for the rescue and the army came after a few hours,” Yacoub related.
Sen. Barack Obama with Raila Odinga
In Kenya, President Obama campaigned for the Muslim challenger, Raila Odinga, while Obama was a U.S. senator.
Appearing with Odinga at campaign stops, Obama gave speeches accusing the sitting Kenyan president of being corrupt and oppressive.
But Odinga lost, despite attracting Muslim votes through a secret Memorandum of Understanding with Muslim Sheik Abdullah Abdi, the chief of the National Muslim Leaders Forum of Kenya. In the memo, Odinga promised to rewrite the Kenyan constitution to install Shariah as law in “Muslim declared regions,” elevate Islam as “the only true religion” and give Islamic leaders “oversight” over other religions, establish Shariah courts and ban Christian proselytism.
After his loss, Odinga accused the incumbent president of rigging the vote and allegedly incited his supporters to riot. Over the next month, some 1,500 Kenyans were killed and more than 500,000 displaced – with most of the violence led by Muslims, who set churches ablaze and hacked Christians to death with machetes.
Odinga eventually ended up as prime minister of Kenya through a power-sharing arrangement that was enacted in an effort to appease the rioters.