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.
You probably don’t think of Christmas as a revolutionary holiday. Twinkling lights on trees, Starbucks gift cards, and sweet carols are not exactly the stuff of subversion. A domesticated Christmas is comforting, but considering our fraught political landscape today, we might find better lessons by reflecting on the disruption caused by Jesus’ birth, and the radical implications of his life.
President Obama's administration will formally end a registry program created after 9/11 to monitor visitors traveling to the U.S. from countries with active terrorist groups, reports the New York Times. This move comes weeks before the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, who made known during his presidential campaign his intent to set up a national registry for Muslims and temporarily ban Muslim immigrants from the U.S.
On the day after the election, Mervat Aqqad’s 7-year-old son woke up and asked who got elected president.
When Aqqad broke the news to Ibrahim, a second-grader at the Al-Iman School in Raleigh, his first question was, “Do we have to move now?”
In a spirit of remembrance of the terrible events of Sept.11, 2001, as well as the policies that came afterward leading to endless wars, I want to call your attention to a statement that Sojourners put together in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, entitled "Deny Them Their Victory.” This document was developed in consultation with Jewish, Muslim, and Christian clergy, and the breadth of participation has made it an extensively inclusive religious statement, with more than 3,900 signers. Its insights feel just as true today as they were then. Now 15 years on, it is worth reflecting on the ways we have succeeded in living up to the values stated below, as well the ways we have failed to do so.
Pope Francis is once again making headlines for comments declaring, as he has before, that Islam is not “terroristic” and that all religions, including Catholicism, have “fundamentalist” splinter groups that can commit violence.
The pontiff made his comments during a flight back to Rome on July 31 from Poland, where he was presiding over the church’s triennial World Youth Day festival.
France was convulsed by another horrific attack on July 26 as armed men burst into a Catholic Church near Rouen and slit the throat of a priest who was saying Mass.
The slain priest, the Rev. Jacques Hamel, 84, was one of four people taken hostage by the attackers, who authorities said had claimed to be from Daesh, the Arabic term for the Islamic State group.
Nice, on France’s Mediterranean coast, now joins a long list of cities, on four continents, where Islamist terrorists have perpetrated gruesome attacks, mercilessly killing hundreds of innocents.
And those are just where some of the highest-profile outrages have occurred, the ones that attract headlines. The fact that millions of people, mostly other Muslims, survive under the daily brutality of violent Islamists in large parts of Syria, Iraq, Libya, Gaza, Nigeria, and elsewhere is so routine as to barely be newsworthy.
Pope Francis has telephoned leaders of the terror-stricken French city of Nice, asking them what he could do to help in the wake of last week’s gruesome truck attack and promising to meet with the families of the victims as soon as possible.
The pontiff made his call out of the blue on July 17, reaching the former mayor of Nice and leader of the region, Christian Estrosi, through the head of a national association of Italians who live in France.
A vortex of hatred is sweeping across the globe, from a nightclub in Orlando to an airport in Istanbul to a restaurant in Dhaka.
At its center are individuals who wrap their savagery in the cloak of Islam. But these terrorists — perhaps 50,000 to 100,000 of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims — are a perversion of the faith. They do not represent the Islam beloved by moderates like me.
If a terrorist claiming he was inspired by his Christian faith killed worshipers at a church in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, would anyone suggest that he was a true Christian or represented the beliefs of other Christians worldwide? Of course not. Such a man would be denounced by Christians everywhere, along with whatever twisted organization he represented.
In a message marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, President Obama lamented the spate of vicious terror attacks around the world in recent weeks and warned against anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S.
“No one should ever feel afraid or unsafe in their place of worship,” Obama said in a message for the feast of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan’s monthlong observance of daytime fasting and abstinence.
While fewer than half of Americans — less than 40 percent — endorse the idea of banning Muslims and Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. and erecting a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Republicans and Democrats have strikingly different opinions.
The Senate is set to begin voting on four gun control bills this evening, due largely to Sen. Chris Murphy’s (D-Conn.) filibuster begun June 15 and carried into the early morning the next day.
After one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history, Murphy said he’d had enough.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) is occupying the floor of the U.S. Senate until the chamber agrees to pass gun violence legislation, reports The Hill.
So far, Murphy has yielded the floor a few times — without losing the right to keep speaking afterwards — to both Republican and Democratic senators so that they can ask questions or make comments.
But while we cry, we must also gain our composure and not allow hate or cynicism to have the first, the loudest, or the last word.
We cannot use hate as the path through our pain into our tomorrow. Hate fuels hate: racial hate, homophobic hate, religious hate, class hate, and the rhetoric of hate that drives the terrorist and the mob. The culture of hate creates the actions of hate. It is and always has been a recipe for murder.
The killings of two Hindus, one Christian, and the wife of an anti-terror official in Muslim-majority Bangladesh last week have left members of minority religious communities afraid for their lives and skeptical of the government’s ability to provide security.
Separate targeted attacks on Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, and atheists have left the country reeling. On top of the violence, some churches have received death threats from Islamist militants.
On June 3, the United States celebrated the passing of Muhammad Ali, an American Muslim who stood for America’s highest ideals. On June 12, it condemned a savage gunman as an Islamist radical before his motivations had been confirmed.
Omar Mateen opened fire in a crowded gay nightclub in Orlando shortly after 2 a.m. June 12. With 50 people dead and 53 wounded, it is the largest shooting rampage in modern America.