WAKE UP TO RELIGIOUS CLEANSING OF CHRISTIANS IN NIGERIA AND THE REGION, URGES RELEASE INTERNATIONAL
Release international is again urging Nigeria to protect its vulnerable Christian minority in the north, following the latest massacre by Boko Haram. Release warns the threat from Islamist insurgents amounts toreligious cleansing and threatens to destabilise the region.
Female suicide bombers, said to be as young as ten, are the latest weapon to be used by terrorists in the wave of attacks in northern Nigeria.
Estimates vary from 150 killed to up to 2,000 dead since January 3, in what has been described as the bloodiest escalation of violence by the Islamist terror group Boko Haram.
Militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles gunned down civilians and burned people in their homes in the village of Baga, near the border with Chad.
The latest attacks in Baga, Maiduguri and elsewhere, have forced 30,000 people to flee, according to reports. An estimated 1.5m Nigerians have been displaced since the fighting began.
The death toll from the insurgency has now reached 10,000, according to the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations.
Many attacks have been against churches, schools and government buildings – especially in areas such as Maiduguri where Christians are in a sizeable minority. It’s been estimated that Boko Haram have destroyed 1,000 churches since the start of their insurgency in 2009.
‘We must open our eyes to the religious cleansing aspect of the violence that is taking place in Nigeria,’ warns Paul Robinson, the Chief Executive of Release International, which provides aid to persecuted Christians around the world. ‘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.’
Media reports say the Nigerian government has been silent about the latest attacks, and some sources say the Nigerian army has been running away from the terrorists.
‘Release is urging Nigeria to act decisively to safeguard the lives of its dwindling Christian minority in the north,’ adds Paul Robinson. ‘And Release is urging the West to wake up to the threat of destabilisation in wider Africa posed by Islamist militants.’
Suicide bombers struck several times over the weekend, including in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. A police source says terrorists used a girl of about ten years of age to take a suicide bomb into a crowded marketplace, before detonating the bomb by remote control, killing the girl and around 19 others.
Maiduguri, with its many Christian churches, has been targeted repeatedly by Boko Haram Islamists, who have called for a caliphate – an Islamic state – in Nigeria. Boko Haram say they want to impose Sharia law across the whole of Nigeria. But observers believe their real intention may be to split the largely Muslim north from the Christian south of the country.
The jihadist group, usually referred to by their nickname, which means ‘Western education is forbidden’, have attacked schools and kidnapped more than 270 schoolgirls in Chibok in northern Nigeria in April. They have kidnapped others since, and in December released a video of a massacre in a school in Gwoza, in the north-east.
Speaking to camera, the leader of the group insisted it was their religious duty to kill unbelievers: ‘We have made sure the floor of this hall has turned red with blood, and this is how it is going to be in all future attacks and arrests of infidels [non-believers]. From now, killing, slaughtering, destructions andbombing will be our religious duty anywhere we invade.’
After last week’s attack in Paris, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron spoke out against what he described as the ‘fanatical death cult of Islamist extremist violence.’ Even so, the Catholic Archbishop of Jos, in northern Nigeria, is warning that the West has yet to wake up to the threat.
Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama said the world had to show more determination to halt the group’s advance in Nigeria. And he warned the Nigerian military was incapable of tackling Boko Haram.
Observers fear Boko Haram could destabilise not only northern Nigeria, but the adjoining countries of Chad, Niger and Cameroon. A recent video by Boko Haram threatened to repeat in Cameroon the havoc wreaked in Nigeria.
Despite the threat to the region, plans to set up a multi-national African force to combat Boko Haram have yet to get under way.
‘Because of Nigeria’s ineffectiveness in tackling the terrorists, the danger is that radicals in other parts of Africa will be emboldened to believe that they too can perpetrate similar atrocities with relative impunity,’ says Paul Robinson of Release. ‘We are already beginning to see more attacks on Christians in East Africa.’
Release has been warning for many months of escalating violence in Nigeria ahead of thecoming presidential elections in February. BBC reports say the country’s politicians have remained silent about the attacks.
‘The West must wake up to the real threat of regional instability, which, if allowed to continue, will affect us all,’ says Paul Robinson. ‘The question has to be asked: “When will the Nigerian government respond effectively to thisinsurgency?”’
Through its international network of missions Release serves persecuted Christians in more than 30 countries, by supporting pastors and Christian prisoners, and theirfamilies; supplying Christian literature and Bibles; and working for justice.
For further information, please contact ReleasePress Officer Andrew Boyd