Nigeria (ODM/MNN) — Boko Haram, the insurgent terrorist group bearing down on Nigeria, has attacked again. This time, officials say, the militant Islamist group hit three villages Wednesday, not far from where they took hundreds of schoolgirl’s hostage.
It’s not even 24 hours after a twin bombing in Jos, which killed 118 Tuesday. On Sunday, a suicide bombing rattled nerves in Sabon Gari, Kano State.
The tactics point to a new terror technique by the insurgent group: the use of random attacks and explosives in a deadly sequence. It means they’re no longer a small insurgency. The United Nations has linked them to another menace.
Jerry Dykstra, a spokesman for Open Doors USA, echoes those concerns. “They’re being empowered by other terrorist groups like al-Qaeda. [sic] It’s disturbing, and we as Christians need to pay attention because [Nigeria is] the most populace Christian country in all of Africa.”
While President Goodluck Jonathan announced increased measures to tackle the militants–including a multi-national force around Lake Chad which comprises a battalion each from Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria, authorities are just trying to cope with the chaos created by Boko Haram. Dykstra notes, “They want to send a message that they can strike any place in Nigeria at will. They seem to be undeterred.”
Each successive headline begins to read more like those in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places battling an al-Qaeda insurgency. That’s what makes the similarities even more disconcerting, Dykstra explains. “We certainly don’t want to see this be another Iraq. They’re still battling, after all these years, tremendous violence. The church is dwindling in Iraq, as we’ve seen and heard. Nigeria’s just a really important place for the spread of Christianity throughout Africa.”
Boko Haram first demanded an Islamic state in the north of Nigeria. However, the demand changed over time. Dykstra says, “What the Boko Haram wants to do, of course, is to make this a Sharia state. And this would hinder the spread of the Gospel throughout Africa.”
Open Doors contacts now say they’re losing faith in the efforts. There are new claims that parts of the Nigerian government that share the anti-Christian convictions of Boko Haram have emerged since the group’s abduction of hundreds of school girls.
Most are Christians and are still missing, over one month after the incident. “Many Nigerians will tell you that they don’t trust the military. Some of the military and police have sympathies with Boko Haram,” said Samuel Dali, pastor and president of the EYN Church of the Brethren in Mubi. “Most of the police are Muslim, and some of them are sympathizers with the insurgents.”
Dali said many of the parents are “disappointed in the government and wondering if they will ever get these girls back,” especially since they have not received any consultation and claim to be treated as if the abduction never happened. One exception was a visit from the Governor of Borno State immediately afterward.
Though rumors of an imminent attack ran through Chibok village before the April 14 kidnappings, Dali said government complicity with Boko Haram is the reason why little military resistance was offered. He said he understands the seriousness of his allegations but said it’s a reality because Boko Haram has “infiltrated all of the cabinets of the government.”
Instead, Dali said, parents are putting their hopes in international assistance. “The news of the international community coming has also raised their hopes, and they believe that justice will be found through the international community.”
Sharon Ikeazor, a representative of the Nigerian opposition party, the All Progressives Congress, visited London last week asking for help. “It’s been an agonizing 30 days,” she told the BBC. “The first 10 days were critical. They [the government] could have gotten the girls back. To us, if after 30 days they haven’t gotten them back, we sense that the government is overwhelmed.”
There is a concerted effort to destroy the testimony of Christ in northern Nigeria. Dykstra says they are trying to counter that. “The two main things they need are our prayers and they need encouragement because this is being ramped up. They need trauma counseling because this has been going on for four or five years.” Pray that those who follow Christ in Nigeria will experience God’s peace and courage. Pray for wisdom for Church leaders as they minister to God’s people under dangerous circumstances.
The Associated Press places the number of civilians killed in attacks in Nigeria so far this year at 1,500. Nigeria is ranked No. 14 on the Open Doors 2014 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians.