by Andrew E. Harrod
Special to IPT News
July 29, 2013
“We are in the vineyard of Allah,” Abubaker Schekau, the leader of the Nigerian Islamist terrorist organization Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad (“People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad”) has stated. Nigerian Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) representing a claimed 80 million Nigerian Christians, quoted Schekau during the second of two successive briefings last Thursday at the Rayburn House Office Building and the National Press Club. The chilling accounts of today’s Nigeria facing Islamist terror by Oritsejafor and his associates gave rise to a cry for American help.
The ravages of Shekau’s group, commonly known by its Hausa nickname Boko Haram (BH) or “Western education is forbidden,” was a central concern for Oritsejafor. He described a Nigeria in which “every week I get a text message—a church was burnt or a pastor was murdered or Christians were randomly rounded up on a roadside and summarily executed.” More than 100 Christians died a month on average during 2012, amounting to about 70 percent of all Christians killed around the world that year. Whether by machete-wielding mobs or Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIED) suicide bombing attacks on churches, “it is open season on Nigeria’s Christians.”
CAN’s secretary for Borno state in northeastern Nigeria, Reverend Faye Musa Pama, was one such victim on May 14. That same day, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency (SOE) in Borno and neighboring Yobe and Adamawa states. Oritsejafor stated that Pama’s “children pleaded for his life; they refused, they killed him.” Oritsejafor also received a call from another pastor in neighboring Yobe describing his imminent murder by a BH mob. “They are coming, they are shooting,” the pastor said. “I couldn’t do anything until they shot him,” Oritsejafor recounted. “That was the end, gone.” The Nigerian lawyer and human rights activist Emmanuel Ogebe, meanwhile, described a Yobe state that has “been so de-Christianized” with “entire villages run out of town.”
Church attendance “is down…drastically” in the Muslim-majority north, Oritsejafor noted. Nigeria’s 175 million people are almost evenly split north-south between Muslims and Christians. Oritsejafor cited one congregation dropping from 500 to 13 members. In some instances, a “pastor can come and sit there alone” in church on Sunday while his family remains home because of safety concerns. Even in Nigeria’s south, weekly church attendance has declined while many churches now feature metal detectors at their entrances.
BH also targets modern, Westernized schools because, as Oritsejafor stated, BH terrorists “see the West as Christian.” Fifty of Borno’s 175 schools now lie in ruins. Fears that BH “will do more” have resulted in parents not sending their children to school. Christian girls face the further danger of abduction into coerced Muslim marriages.
At the National Press Club, James Fadele, president of the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans (CANAN), rejected State Department claims that BH resulted from an “economic and poverty crisis” rather than a “Jihadist extremist mandate.” Fadele referenced the World Bank’s Nigeria Economic Report released in May. Relatively calm Jigawa state reported therein a 77.5 percent poverty rate in comparison to an average 59.7 percent poverty rate for Nigeria’s northeast containing the “hotbeds of Boko Haram terrorism.”
Oritsejafor identified BH as a “theological problem,” an “ideological problem,” and a “jihadist issue.” BH started with “mullahs, sheikhs…people who studied the Koran.”
“In the mosques,” meanwhile, “there are things that are being taught that are not right.” According to Boko Haram, “Islam must rule Nigeria” and Shekau had stated that “we will not stop until we create an Islamic state.”
He appealed to “awaken the conscience to stop this genocide.” Fadele similarly ended the press club briefing by asking the assembled journalists, “what will you do, what will you write.” To Nigeria’s suffering, “you may be the answer.”