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'Don't ignore terrorist attacks in Nigeria'

A Nigerian Baptist leader castigates international community for "just watching" as Boko Haram continues to terrorise the West African country

Dr Samson Ayokunle, president of the Nigerian Baptist Convention (NBC), has called for international intervention to halt the terror group Boko Haram.

The Baga massacre in early January was the latest atrocity committed by Boko Haram, the jihadist group that seeks to establish Sharia law in Nigeria. It has killed an estimated 5,000 civilians since 2009, while an estimated 1.5 million have fled their homes because of threats and attacks. It has also abducted more than 500 people, including the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in April 2014.

Nigeria searching for Boko Har
Civilians mount a roadblock in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, searching for Boko Haram suspects
Photo: Obinna Anyadike/IRIN

Given intervention in other conflict situations, Dr Ayokunle accused the world community of devaluing Nigerian lives.

'My consternation is in the attitude of the international community toward the huge destruction going on in Nigeria,' Ayokunle told the BWA. 'The earnestness with which they intervened in the ISIL attack in Syria and Iraq, or the Taliban problem in Afghanistan, etc., is not shown in the case of Nigeria.

'Does it not matter to the rest of the world if Boko Haram continues to kill hundreds of people every week? Are these people less human than those being killed in other places where they have gone to directly intervene? My people are being killed like animals and the whole world is just watching.'

Boko Haram conducted the Baga massacre in the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno in early January this year causing an unknown number of deaths, though estimates range from dozens to more than 2,000. It was the latest in a series of attacks since 2009 when Boko Haram launched a military campaign to create an Islamic state. In April 2013, more than 185 people were killed and more than 2,000 homes in Baga were destroyed as a result of fighting between the Nigerian military and Boko Haram.

The Nigerian Baptist leader, who was speaking to the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) - the convention he leads is the largest BWA member organisation in Africa with approximately 3.5 million members in some 10,000 churches - added that the "the church is under siege of severe persecution."

'The situation is pathetic.' Dr Ayokunle declared. 'The main targets in all these attacks are the Christians first and any other person that opposes them. Any town they enter, after killing the Christians there, they go ahead to bring down all the churches there sparing the mosques. Major Christian cities such as Gwoza and Mubi among others have fallen to them. Christians in cities such as Michika and Baga are also on the run.'

Baptists have been directly affected. 'No Christian church is standing anymore in Mubi where more than 2,000 Baptists fled the city through Cameroon when Boko Haram attacked.' These Baptist Christians, he said, returned to Nigeria through another town called Yola in Adamawa State but never to their homes again. 'They have become displaced and are now living in displaced people's camps scampering for food, without decent accommodation and naked.'

The Revs Dr Samson Ayokunle
Dr Samson Ayokunle/WCC

Dr Ayokunle said Baptist buildings, including the offices of the secretariat of Fellowship Baptist Conference of the NBC, was burned in Mubi, and the home of the conference president was vandalised. The conference president and Baptist pastors have fled to the city of Jos in Plateau state, another region that has been attacked by Boko Haram. 'Our Baptist High School in Mubi has been closed while our Baptist Pastors' School in another neighboring town, Gombi, was indefinitely shut down.'

He expressed appreciation for the prayerful support of Baptists and other Christians and requested financial support to assist those who have been displaced by the terrorist attacks. 'Continue to join us in prayer so that the gates of hell might not prevail against the Church of Christ in Nigeria.'

Elsewhere the charity Release International, which provides aid to persecuted Christians around the world, echoed Dr Ayokunle's assessment of the religious element in the attacks, and called on the Nigerian Goverment to do more to protect its vulnerable Christian minority in the north.

‘We must open our eyes to the religious cleansing aspect of the violence that is taking place in Nigeria,’ said Paul Robinson, Release Chief Executive. ‘Release contacts say many Christians have now been driven from the north as Boko Haram strives to create its brutal version of an Islamic state. While all Nigerians are at risk from violent jihadists, Christians are being singled out as targets.

‘Release is urging Nigeria to act decisively to safeguard the lives of its dwindling Christian minority in the north. And Release is urging the West to wake up to the threat of destabilisation in wider Africa posed by Islamist militants.’

Observers fear Boko Haram could destabilise not only northern Nigeria, but the adjoining countries of Chad, Niger and Cameroon, the Release statement continued. A recent video by Boko Haram threatened to repeat in Cameroon the havoc wreaked in Nigeria.

Baptist Times, 19/01/2015
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