“I have friends in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. I no longer have words of consolation for them; I don’t know what to say,” graduate student Reuben Duniya told the Record in an email.
Duniya is from Kafanchan, Nigeria, and his experience is singularly important because those friends of his are among those millions dwelling in cities that live in fear of the imminent danger from Boko Haram.
Boko Haram is a militant terrorist organization that focuses on ridding their area of influence from the control of Western society. The group’s interpretation of “Western society” ranges from voting in elections or acquiring a secular education to simply wearing shirts and trousers.
The militant Islamic organization imperils the lives of many who live in northern Nigeria, as evidenced by Boko Haram’s recent massacre of nearly 2,000 villagers from Baga and surrounding towns.
“Borno, Yobe and Adamawa are under serious threat from Boko Haram,” Duniya said. Along with the Nigerian villagers, the Christian church likewise found itself under attack in those areas.
“It will not be an overestimation to say that Boko Haram activities have led to the closure of over 1,000 churches,” Duniya said.
The closure of those churches is not a contingent side effect of the war unleashed upon the region. According to Duniya, the primary objective of Boko Haram is to eliminate any other religion where they desire to establish their Islamic caliphate. Christianity is especially targeted because it is the major competitor for souls in Nigeria — and presently, it seems as if Boko Haram is winning the contest.
“Many Christians find it difficult to believe in an all-powerful God that cannot protect them from these kinds of attacks. Many resort to magic and other un-Christian practices because they want protection,” Duniya said.
The Nigerian government led by President Goodluck Jonathan has failed to demonstrate control over the situation. As of now, the region occupied by Boko Haram is roughly the size of Belgium and takes up nearly a quarter of the Nigerian nation.
Assistant professor of politics and international relations Michael McKoy said, “I think alongside the horror that is Boko Haram is the almost criminal negligence of the government in Nigeria. What have they done to stop Boko Haram?”
A main contributing factor to Boko Haram’s constant acquisition of land is a consistent lack of supplies in key towns that should have been defended with more effort, leading Nigerians to wonder where their help will come from if not their own government.
The militant group is officially called Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, which translates to “People Committed to the Propogation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad,” but is more commonly known as Boko Haram, which means, “Western education is forbidden.”
That idea of “jihad” has appeared in the stories of multiple terrorist attacks and usually serves to rationalize the actions of the militant offenders, since some translate it to mean “holy war.” However, according to other scholars, “jihad” simply refers to efforts on the believer’s part to be a good Muslim.
McKoy argued that Boko Haram might not even count as an “extremist Islamic group” because their habitude of wanton destruction does not match the traditional religious use of the inner struggle for holiness.
“I can genuinely say that this doesn’t even look like Islam,” McKoy said. “I think there are genuine areas of disagreement with Islam, and we can talk about them. But I would honestly say that this is a psychopathic ideology.”
Boko Haram appeals to many young men in their regions of influence because of the promise of warfare and loot. McKoy posited that many of those men don’t follow the traditional practices of Islam but are rather using the idea of “jihad” as an excuse to execute the heinous crimes that they are known for.
McKoy said, “When you do something horrible, you want to feel good about it, so you put something on top of it to make you feel good. In this case — in a developing world context — Islam feels like that ideology that is rebelling against Western order.”
It is that ideology that McKoy suggests Boko Haram is manipulating in order to justify its barbarous actions in northern Nigeria.
Due to the group’s perverted ethics, it may seem difficult to find consolation for Nigerian natives and Christians universally.
According to Duniya, “The point to note for Wheaton students and staff is that Christianity in northern Nigeria is under the threat of annihilation especially where there is a strong Islamic presence. It will take fervent prayer on the part of believers and a committed and determined government action to stop Boko Haram.”