Boko Haram

Charles Kwuelum 1-30-2017
Image via Flickr / condevcenter / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Image via Flickr / condevcenter / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

LONG BEFORE Boko Haram emerged in 2002, my home country of Nigeria was polarized along religious and ethnic lines by politicians who sought to pit one group against another. Disputes about religious freedom, resource control, and citizenship led to violent conflicts at the local and state levels. Many religious sites were desecrated.

Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa and seventh most populous worldwide, is fondly referred to as “the giant of West Africa.” It has the largest economy on the continent and is incredibly diverse in ethnicity and religion. Half of Nigeria’s population is Christian, living mostly in the southern part of the country, and the other half is Muslim, living primarily in the north.

In 2009, while I was pastor of a Catholic parish in Kano State, in northern Nigeria, a bloody confrontation broke out between the Nigeria Police Force and Boko Haram about 300 miles away in the northeast part of the country. Two years later, I was caring for eight families who had fled to the city of Kaduna, seeking safety from Boko Haram attacks. As I listened to their stories, I could not help but think of my own family’s displacement after riots in 1980 and 2002. Our congregation and my own family had been directly impacted by violent ethno-religious conflicts.

But the norm in the part of northern Nigeria where I grew up was very different from that. Christians and Muslims lived together as neighbors and friends. Young people bonded as they played sports with one another. Muslims and Christians exchanged greetings and attended one another’s naming and marriage ceremonies. We rejoiced and grieved together.

This included Nasiru, Ahmad, and Abdul, three of my Muslim neighbors who joined Boko Haram in 2009. They were attracted to Boko Haram because of their frustration with overwhelming socioeconomic inequality that had left them impoverished and unemployed. From their perspective, the ostentatious lifestyle of the political class indicated corruption, poor governance, and improperly managed resources. Boko Haram seemed to promise justice.

“We feel hopeful when the preacher reminds us that those who rob us of our livelihood will be judged and damned,” I remember Nasiru saying to me.

10-13-2016

Image via RNS/Reuters/Joe Penney

Boko Haram has freed 21 of more than 200 girls kidnapped by the Islamist militant group in April 2014, in the northern Nigerian town of Chibok, the [Nigerian] government said on Thursday.

Around 270 girls were taken from their school in Chibok, in the northeastern Borno state, where the jihadists have waged a seven-year insurgency to try to set up an Islamic state, killing thousands and displacing more than 2 million people.

Adriene Thorne 4-14-2016

Rebecca Samuels. Image via On Scripture.

Too often in the biblical witness, violence against women and girls focuses disproportionate energy on the feelings and actions of men. King David is furious. Absalom feels hatred. And the desolate Tamar is instructed to be quiet. Her rapist was, after all, her kinfolk, her half-brother, a member of her tribe.

Image via REUTERS/Joe Penney/RNS

Two years after the abduction of nearly 300 Chibok schoolgirls by Boko Haram militants in northeast Nigeria, some parents are still hoping their daughters will one day be rescued. But some church leaders there are concerned that the authorities have not done enough to rescue the girls, who were ages 16 to 18 at the time of the kidnapping on April 14, 2014. About 50 of the girls escaped, but 219 remain missing.

Valerie Bridgeman 2-16-2016

I don’t know who posted it. But on Feb. 2, as I customarily do, I checked into Facebook to see what my friends were talking about. A post popped up about 86 children slaughtered in Dalori, Nigeria, by Boko Haram, the terrorist group that kidnapped upwards of 300 girls on April 14, 2014. The children, the post dated Jan. 31 noted, were burned alive.

I reflexively shuttered. How was is possible that is was Feb. 2 and I had heard NOTHING of children burned alive, not on any news network? 

Image via thierry ehrmann/flickr.com

On Jan. 16, our nation will observe National Religious Freedom Day. This day commemorates the Virginia General Assembly’s adoption of Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom back in 1786. As Jefferson’s statute proclaimed, religious freedom is among the “natural rights of mankind.” Yet to this day, billions of people abroad routinely are denied this liberty.

Marcia Fingal 8-31-2015

Screenshot of Chibok Girls: 500 Days in Captivity/YouTube/Odyssey Networks

Five hundred days in captivity is a long time for anyone, let alone teen girls. But this is exactly the case for 219 students kidnapped and still missing. Under the cover of darkness on April 14, 2014, the terrorist group Boko Haram, dressed as military soldiers, abducted 276 female students from the Government Secondary School in Chibok, Nigeria. They plundered and burned the school to the ground and forced the young girls into large trucks. A total of 57 girls escaped on their own, but 219 grieving families still await news of their daughters' fate. Based on the reports of other Boko Haram abductees, it's believed the Chibok girls have been sold as child brides, forced into sexual slavery, turned into unwilling weapons of terrorism. Shocking revelations ... as this story has virtually disappeared from the headlines.

What if this had happened in the United States or Europe?

Five hundred days in captivity is a long time for anyone, let alone teen girls. But this is exactly the case for 219 students kidnapped and still missing. Under the cover of darkness on April 14, 2014, the terrorist group Boko Haram, dressed as military soldiers, abducted 276 female students from the Government Secondary School in Chibok, Nigeria. They plundered and burned the school to the ground and forced the young girls into large trucks. A total of 57 girls escaped on their own, but 219 grieving families still await news of their daughters' fate. Based on the reports of other Boko Haram abductees, it's believed the Chibok girls have been sold as child brides, forced into sexual slavery, turned into unwilling weapons of terrorism. Shocking revelations ... as this story has virtually disappeared from the headlines.

What if this had happened in the United States or Europe?

Photo via REUTERS / Afolabi Sotunde / RNS

Nigeria’s President-elect Muhammadu Buhari addresses the media on May 13, 2015. Photo via REUTERS / Afolabi Sotunde / RNS

Nigeria’s newly elected president, Muhammadu Buhari, promised during his campaign that he would tackle the militant terrorist group Boko Haram.

On May 29, he will be sworn into office, just as the extremist group is ramping up its use of female suicide bombers.

Buhari, who is Muslim, replaces Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the country’s south. Both Christians and Muslims voted for Buhari in April, convinced he could stop the terrorist rampage.

Nigerians fear violence may escalate if female terrorists are deployed because they can hide explosives under their long Muslim abayas, or gowns.

the Web Editors 5-01-2015

1. Officers Charged in Freddie Gray's Death, Ruled a Homicide
“In an unexpected announcement Friday, Baltimore lead prosecutor Marilyn J. Mosby said there is “probable cause” to file criminal charges against police officers in the death of Freddie Gray ...” 

2. How Biased Is Your Feed?
Via Future Journalism Project Media Lab: A new study indicates that news and information gets more biased as it passes through social networks. … And given that half of Facebook and Twitter users consume news via those networks, our consumption and digestion of such “news” could take on that bias.

3. Nepal Earthquake: Up to 15,000 May Have Died, According to Army Chief
Amid public anger at government response to the massive earthquake and threats of disease, the country’s army chief painted a grim estimate of between 10-15,000 likely deaths in the wake of the weekend’s quake.

4. Lawmaker Considers Blocking Baltimore Protesters’ Food Stamp Benefits
“‘That’s an idea, and that could be legislation,’ [Maryland state legislator Patrick McDonough] said in response to a caller who asked if benefits could be revoked from parents of protesters. ‘I think that you could make the case that there is a failure to do proper parenting, and allowing this stuff to happen—is there an opportunity for a month to take away your food stamps?’”

QR Blog Editor 4-14-2015

One year after the kidnapping of 276 Nigerian schoolgirls by terror group Boko Haram, more than 200 kidnapped children remain missing. 

The kidnapping on April 15, 2014, provoked international outrage and a viral twitter hashtag, #BringBackOurGirls. Many prominent personalities — including First Lady Michelle Obama and comedian Ellen DeGeneres — joined the global outcry, prompting Nigeria to launch a military offensive against the group. Also in the last year, the U.S. military and others have offered Nigeria assistance in finding the children. 

But few children to date have escaped from what is widely counted among the most ruthless terror groups operating in North Africa.

According to NBC

"The Chibok girls were just one group of many, many others who have been kidnapped since last year," said Biu, a woman's rights activist and professor in Maiduguri, Nigeria. "I cannot say that the #BringBackOurGirls campaign has made women and young girls in the northeast feel any safer."

While a few dozen of the Chibok girls have escaped Boko Haram captivity, more than 200 are still missing. To Biu, the international campaign to release the girls did little to bring them home — or stop countless others from being taken since.

Since then, NBC reports, Boko Haram's campaign of terror has continued "largely unabated." 

Read more here.

Photo via Michael Hudson / RNS

The Most Reverend Josiah Idowu-Fearon preaches in Toronto on February 22, 2015. Photo via Michael Hudson / RNS

African Anglicans welcomed the appointment of a Nigerian bishop as the next secretary general of the 85 million-member Anglican Communion, even as others criticized the appointment because of his anti-gay comments.

Bishop Josiah Atkins Idowu-Fearon beat other applicants from Oceania, Asia, Europe, and the Americas and will assume the mostly ambassador-type post at a time when the worldwide communion remains estranged over homosexuality and same-sex marriages, especially in Africa.

“He is articulate and very well educated,” said Bishop Julius Kalu of Mombasa, Kenya, diocese.

“His position on traditional Anglicanism is very firm. This is good for us.”

Kalu said the appointment had come at the right time, when African Anglicans needed a bigger voice within the communion.

“The church is growing fastest here,” said Kalu.

Photo courtesy of REUTERS / Goran Tomasevic / RNS

Supporters celebrate the election of Muhammadu Buhari. Photo courtesy of REUTERS / Goran Tomasevic / RNS

A northern Nigeria Muslim leader who promised to pursue a nonreligious agenda as president will now have to deal with an Islamic terrorist insurgency that has wreaked chaos in the country’s north.

Muhammadu Buhari, 72, a former military ruler and a Muslim, beat incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, 57, a Christian from the country’s south, in a race held under the shadow of Boko Haram violence.

Not all Nigerians are happy with Buhari’s election, given his past human-rights record as president from January 1984 to August 1985. During that time, he imprisoned journalists and opposition activists without trial and executed drug traffickers by firing squad.

But Nigerians, both Christian and Muslim, hope he is better-suited to battle Boko Haram, despite being a Muslim himself.

Photo via REUTERS / Afolabi Sotunde / RNS

Muhammadu Buhari gestures to supporters in Daura, Nigeria. Photo via REUTERS / Afolabi Sotunde / RNS

Under the shadow of Boko Haram violence, Nigerians head to the polls March 28 to elect a president and a deputy in a vote observers say is critical for the country’s stability and economic progress.

In a twist that might have been difficult to predict, many Christians in Nigeria’s north are backing a Muslim candidate to lead their country away from the brink of violence and chaos.

Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim from the north and the leader of the All Progressives Congress party, is challenging the leadership of incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the south who heads the ruling People’s Democratic Party.

Some Nigerians fear that another term for Jonathan would mean institutionalization of corruption and emergence of more Muslim extremist groups in addition to Boko Haram.

And they are willing to pin their hopes on a Muslim candidate.

Tom Gowon, 9, in a brown jacket, with his fellow refugees at Baga Sola camp, Cha

Tom Gowon, 9, in a brown jacket, with his fellow refugees at Baga Sola camp, Chad. Image via Tonny Onyulo/RNS.

Memories of Boko Haram’s murderous spree in his Nigerian hometown haunt Tom Gowon, 9, as he sits on a patch of grass at a refugee camp, sipping steaming porridge from a plastic mug.

“I was lucky because I was not killed,” said Gowon, recalling the assault on Baga, Nigeria, in early January.

“But they shot and killed my father. My mother was kidnapped by the militants.”

Children such as Gowon bear the brunt of Boko Haram’s rampage since its fighters kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls last year and conquered enough territory to declare a caliphate that covers one-fifth of Nigeria.

Where the militants have met resistance, they’ve torched villages and left piles of corpses in their wake.

“There are several camps around here housing many children who have lost their parents in attacks,” said Guy Nanhousngue, a Chadian relief worker who said children make up about half of the Nigerians coming to the Baga Sola refugee camp on the shores of Lake Chad, which separates the two countries.

“We’re registering more than 50 children every day.”

Katharine Lackey 3-09-2015
Photo courtesy of REUTERS / Emmanuel Braun / RNS

A Chadian soldier during battle against insurgent group Boko Haram in Gambaru. Photo courtesy of REUTERS / Emmanuel Braun / RNS

Boko Haram’s leader has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in a new audio message, according to a group that monitors extremist activity.

In the recording, a man claiming to be Abubakar Shekau, leader of the Nigerian terrorist group that has killed thousands, vowed to follow Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the U.S.-based SITE Intel Group, announced on March 7.

“We announce our allegiance to the Caliph of the Muslims … and will hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity, in hardship and ease, and to endure being discriminated against, and not to dispute about rule with those in power, except in case of evident infidelity regarding that which there is a proof from Allah,” Shekau said in a tweeted message that went along with the video, according to the Associated Press. Al-Baghdadi is the self-proclaimed head of the caliphate.

Flashpoint Intelligence, a global security firm, confirmed the recording to NBC News and said it was posted on Boko Haram social media accounts. USA Today was not able to independently verify the message.

Photo courtesy REUTERS / Afolabi Sotunde / RNS

Demonstrators gather at the electoral office in Abuja on Feb. 9, 2015. Photo courtesy REUTERS / Afolabi Sotunde / RNS

Nigeria’s election commission has postponed national elections for six weeks saying it would not be able to provide security for voters in the northeast region of the country most affected by the Islamist group Boko Haram.

Attahiru Jega, head of the Independent National Electoral Commission, announced Feb. 7 that the elections scheduled for Feb. 14 had been moved to March 28. Nigeria is slated to elect a president for a four-year term. Goodluck Jonathan, the current president and a Christian, is running for re-election alongside 13 other candidates, including his most formidable challenger, Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim.

Jonathan has been sharply criticized for his management of the Boko Haram crisis and some Western leaders suggested the postponement was a last-ditch effort to shore up his vote.

But church leaders in the war-hit regions welcomed the move.

“Many Christians here had not collected their voter cards and this may afford them time to do so,” said the Rev. John Bakeni, the secretary of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri.

Photo via Fredrick Nzwili / RNS

A happy South Sudanese family before the war. Photo via Fredrick Nzwili / RNS

As world attention shifts to the growing influence of Muslim militant groups on the African continent, few have paid any attention to the ongoing bloody conflict in South Sudan.

An estimated 50,000 people have died and 2 million have been displaced in the latest phase of fighting in this nation, according to the International Crisis Group, a think tank that aims to prevent and resolve such conflicts. That’s about five times more than in northern Nigeria, where the Islamist militant group Boko Haram has killed more than 5,000 people in six years.

“South Sudan’s conflict is not getting much attention due to shifting interests towards Islamic extremism,” said the Rev. Fred Nyabera of Kenya, a social scientist who is director of the Interfaith Initiative to End Child Poverty at the global faith-based organization Arigatou International. “This has become a global issue because of the immediate threats it poses to nations.

“But leaving South Sudan alone at this time when the people are trying to define their identity and country, under very fragile circumstances, is to postpone a big problem,” Nyabera added.

the Web Editors 1-16-2015

1. Can the U.S. Ever Figure Out its Messed-Up Maternity Leave System?
“According to the United Nations’ International Labour Organization, there are only two countries in the world that don’t have some form of legally protected, partially paid time off for working women who’ve just had a baby: Papua New Guinea and the U.S.”

2. Post-Evangelicals and Why We Can’t Just Get Over It
Rachel Held Evans pens this spot-on column about identity and why it can be difficult to “simply” ditch the label: “When you grow up believing that your religious worldview contains the key to absolute truth and provides an answer to every question, you never really get over the disappointment of learning that it doesn’t.”

3. This Is What the Oscar Nominations Look Like Without All the Men
A really great visualization.

4. From Lone Wolf to Wolf Packs, What Paris Says About a New Model of Terror
If some interpretations of the recent terrorist attacks hold true, they "point to a dangerous evolution [in] global jihadism: an acceleration in hard-to-detect lone-wolf or wolf-pack attacks that hinge more on the proliferation of an ideology than actual sponsorship by any group.

Tara Samples 1-14-2015
Composite image of a man. Image courtesy Zurijeta/shutterstock.com

Composite image of a man. Image courtesy Zurijeta/shutterstock.com

The real war on terror is not a war on Western values or American values. It is evil perpetuating crimes of power and control, and its costs are measured in real in human lives. Those lives are largely black and brown, and the focus on the danger to America with its resulting protectionism and cultural-centrism is endangering lives long term.

Church, let us not join in the narrative of self-preservation. Let us not value those who look and think like our own community more than those who are culturally different. Let us not value the wealthy more than the impoverished. Let justice-speech ring from our pulpits, and let love for the culturally different be reflected in our prayers and our financial endeavors. For the world to hear that in Christ all lives matter, we the Body must speak loudly and demonstrate that #blacklivesmatter #brownlivesmatter.

Photo via Simon Caldwell / Catholic News Service / RNS

Nigerian Roman Catholic Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama. Photo via Simon Caldwell / Catholic News Service / RNS

Nigerian Roman Catholic Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama says his country needs a similar march to the one held in Paris on Jan. 11 to pay tribute to victims of Islamist militant attacks.

While 20 people were killed in the Paris rampage (including three terrorists), Boko Haram’s ongoing campaign of terror in Nigeria has left hundreds dead. Last week, as many as 2,000 were killed as Boko Haram militants took over the town of Baga in Borno state.

Kaigama said he wants the international community to show determination to stop the advance of militants, who are indiscriminately killing Christians and Muslims and bombing villages, towns, churches, and mosques.

“I hope even here a great demonstration of national unity will take place, to say no to the violence and find a solution to the problems plaguing Nigeria,” Kaigama told Fides, a Catholic news agency.

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