By Faith McDonnell
Dr. Musa Asake, the General Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), described the horrors of living under the constant threat of Boko Haram, the Islamist terrorists targeting northern Nigeria’s Christians. Asake spoke at the Washington, DC offices of The Institute on Religion and Democracy on Wednesday, December 12, 2012. Boko Haram has declared that northern Nigeria (for starters) must be free of Christians and ruled by the Sharia. They are working towards those ends by killing as many Christians as possible. (Leader Imam Abubakar Shekau has declared, “If Allah asks me to kill someone, I will enjoy killing him, like I am killing a chicken.”)
Boko Haram is a great challenge to the faith of the Christians, says Asake. There have been so many bombings and other attacks on churches and individual Christians by Boko Haram that when families go to church they don’t know if they will come back home the same way they went, or even if they will come home at all. In addition to deaths, hundreds of northern Nigerian Christians have been grieviously wounded, losing arms and legs in Boko Haram’s suicide bombing attacks, or mentally and emotionally scarred by trauma.
It is strongly believed that the group is tied to Al Qaeda, Al-Shabab, and other Islamists. The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security has urged a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” (FTO) designation for Boko Haram. But the U.S. State Department has so far refused to grant this, although it did sanction three individual leaders. Recently it has been revealed that both the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the British Foreign Office officially describe Boko Haram as terrorists. Still, it is understandable that the United States is unwilling to follow suit, seeing as the term “terrorist” is quickly disappearing from the U.S. government lexicon.
CAN, however, is “crying out to the United States government to please designate Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization,” says Asake. The Nigerian church council agrees with U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security Chair U.S. Rep. Peter T. King and Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence Chair U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan who urged the same in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton. King and Meehan said that if Boko Haram were an FTO it would ensure the necessary legal authority to: prosecute individuals associated with Boko Haram for any terrorism related crimes within the U.S. Homeland, designate individuals within Boko Haram for illicit fundraising, and ensure the availability of every military, intelligence, diplomatic, and economic tool to disrupt and deter Boko Haram’s operations, planning, and fundraising both internationally and domestically.
Like most northern Nigerians, Dr. Asake has been personally affected by the persecution of the country’s Christians. Years before the systematic jihadist movement of Boko Haram had begun its religiously-motivated war on Christians, Islamists had attacked his sister’s house. He explained how his sister was commanded to denounce her Christian faith, as a knife was held to her throat. Three times she refused, but just as her
attacker was going to murder her, another man appeared who told him, “we don’t kill women.” So instead, they burned her house to the ground. The coming of Boko Haram has made life even more dangerous for Christians. And in a relatively short time, as related by King and Meehan in their letter to Clinton, they have made a “rapid progression from a machete-wielding mob to a full blown al Qaeda affiliate targeting the United Nations and Western interests.”
Asake says that “Christians have been very patient,” and it is offensive when the one-sided slaughter of Boko Haram is referred to as “sectarian violence.” In spite of what the U.S. State Department or other government offices may say, and in spite of the morally equivalent two-step to which the mainstream media and academic elites dance, Christians in northern Nigeria have not retaliated in the face of this horrific treatment.
It is an insult to the Christian community that has suffered so greatly for U.S. officials to postulate that “Boko Haram is not religiously motivated” and that they are “fighting the economic injustice” as they “feel marginalized” as Muslims. Boko Haram has never gone after a mosque the way they have northern Nigeria’s churches. According to the terrorist group’s own manifesto, “it is strictly religious,” declared Asake.
Asake warned that there is a limit to which people can be pushed. Boko Haram’s attacks, the lack of adequate response from the Nigerian government, and the absolutely offensive excuses for Boko Haram’s behavior offered by the U.S. State Department are driving Christians in northern Nigeria to despair. It almost appears as if the U.S. State Department is “running diplomatic relations for Boko Haram, not the United States,” said Nigerian American attorney Emmanuel Ogebe.
The most recent tactic of Boko Haram, which has hardly received media coverage, is what Asake referred to as “silent killing.” Rather than bombings and shootings, the terrorists come at night to the homes of Christians and slash the throats of the entire family. Just two weeks ago 10 people were “silently killed” in Maiduguri. Boko Haram terrorists also pursued a young son of a pastor to his home, where they shot the pastor to death where he was sitting.
In conclusion, Dr. Asake referred to the film “Antwone Fisher,” in which the title character reciting his poem pleads, “Who will cry for the little boy?” And then he added, “Who will cry for the Christians of northern Nigeria?” Asake hopes that concerned Americans, and especially American churches, will be intercessors and advocates for their Nigerian brothers and sisters who are under siege.
Informed and compassionate church members in America can help counter the falsehoods that are spread about Boko Haram and its victims. And they can pressure the Obama Administration to give the FTO designation that will help to stop Boko Haram for continuing its murderous agenda. Start by signing Jubilee Campaign USA’s petition to the White House requesting Boko Haram receive the FTO designation. 25,000 signatures are needed in order for the White House to even review it. Will 25,000 cry out for the Christians of northern Nigeria?