A one-sided war in Nigeria is being portrayed by the world press as a conflict between tribal groups. The truth is that a militant Islamic group is killing Christians and destroying churches with the objective of making Nigeria into an Islamic State.
The latest terrorist acts were on Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 2011 when three Christian Churches were bombed. The highest casualties were at St Theresa Roman Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger State, where 44 people were killed by the bomb blast, out of which, 26 were parishioners, 3 were policemen on guard duty, and another 73 were hospitalized. Madalla is a satellite town of the country’s capital Abuja located 40 km (25 mi) from the city center.
Boko Haram, the Islamic militant sect in Nigeria, claimed responsibility for the bombs. On the same day as the Madalla attack, Boko Haram also detonated bombs at Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church in Jos, Plateau state, though no one was killed until a policeman who later confronted the assailants was shot. Another two bombs were found in a nearby building and were disarmed. A bomb also exploded at a church in Gadaka, Yobe state, where several people reportedly were wounded. In addition, three officers were killed in Damatura when an attacker attempted to drive into the state security command headquarters.
The parish priest at St Theresa, Father Issac Achi, described the blast at his church. He said the bomb went off as the 6 am Mass ended and worshipers trooped out in their numbers to go home. St. Theresa’s Catholic Church has about 2,400 members, and on Sundays there are three worship services with an average attendance of about 800 worshipers.
“Immediately after the Mass was over and we had our final blessings, people were just filing out of the church before a heavy explosion occurred. We ran out and saw many people lying dead; some were burnt in their vehicles beyond recognition, while many other victims were critically wounded. “Some victims who were rushed to the hospitals died along the way as they could not withstand the effect of the blast,” he added.
“Apart from my church members who were leaving the church premises when the bomb blew off there were also other passers-by and motor-cyclists waiting to pick worshipers to take home who were caught-up in the explosion.
“So many lives were lost in the bomb blast. The bomb blast incident was so pathetic in many ways. For instance there was a case of two families that lost almost all of its members in the blast. One of them lost all but one member of the family, a young girl in her teens, Nancy Chidinma Francis.
“For the other family, the father and his four children perished, leaving the wife who did not come to church with the rest.”
Another eyewitness and social worker at the church, Mr. Benjamin Ekwegbalu, narrated what he saw on that fateful day. According to him, the worshipers were moving out of the church oblivious of the looming danger when in a twinkle of an eye, the bomb went-off.
Ekwegbalu said the security men at the entrance of the church were stopping a car to make way for people when suddenly the bomb exploded and raised a lot of dust and a thick cloud of smoke which enveloped the entire area, causing serious panic.
He said: “I heard a big bang and I saw thick black cloud immediately covering the whole place. There was fire burning all over the place and everybody was running helter-skelter.
“There were countless bodies of victims scattered all over the church premises. The bomb blast was so devastating that some victims’ body parts were flung on top of the church roof from where rescue workers had to climb to retrieve them”.
A member of Boko Haram sect, Kabir Umar, alias Kabir Sokoto was arrested as mastermind of the bombing. According to the police, a cheque of N500,000 was found on him together with a passport with visas to some countries. On 24 January 2012, however, it was reported that he escaped from Police custody.
Boko Haram is an indigenous Salafist group which turned itself into a Salafist Jihadist group in 2009. It propagates a version of Islam that not only forbids any interaction with the Western World but it is also against the traditional Muslim establishment and the government of Nigeria.
It is based in the northeast of Nigeria, in the areas predominated by the Kanuri people. Its proper name is Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati Wal-Jihad or People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad. Boko Haram in the Hausa language translates as "Western education is sacrilege" or "Western education is a sin." In 2011, it was responsible for more than 450 killings in Nigeria.
Founded by Mohammed Yusuf in 2001or 2002, the organization seeks to "abolish the secular system and establish an Islamic state" and "establish a Sharia system of government in the country." Yusuf was one of a number of young Nigerian clerics who embraced Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi/Salafi strain of Islam in the mid-1990s, Yusuf called upon Muslims to remove, by force if necessary, Nigeria's secular government and replace it with an Islamic state. Before his death, Yusuf reiterated the group's objective of changing the current education system and rejecting democracy.
President Goodluck Jonathan recently claimed that Boko Haram elements had infiltrated all branches of the government and security services.
In its efforts to impose Sharia law throughout Nigeria, the Islamist terror group Boko Haram has systematically targeted Nigerian government officials, Christians, and those Muslims who dare to publicly denigrate the terrorist organization
The Boko Haram’s spokesperson Abul Qaqa explained in August 2011 why they attack.
The reasons are clear: The Nigerian Government is a KUFUR system [The Qur'an uses the word kufr to denote a person who covers up or hides realities, one who refuses to accept the dominion and authority of God (Allāh)] serving BOTH UNITED NATION (UN) AND CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (CAN)
“We the Jama’atu Ahlisunnah Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad are Muslims and are from the northern part of the country who spent eight years agitating for Islamic State, striving to bring back the lost glory of Uthman Dan Fodio [the founder of the Sokoto Caliphate in 1809, in what is today northern Nigeria, who worked to establish a theocratic state with a strict interpretation of Islam]. What is wrong with that?”
“Is just to go back to the ways of our creator (Allah) where justice, discipline, good morals, love and care, peace and progress etc will prevail. We want to make it clear that the country called Nigeria belongs to Allah.”
Christians and Muslims in Nigeria are presently almost equally divided though Christians dominate in the South of the country while Muslims are the main religious group in the North of the country (see map above). In a population of Nigeria estimated in 2009 was at 154,729,000, 50% were Muslims, 40% were Christian (15% Protestant, 13.7% Catholic, and 19.6% other Christian), with followers of other religions at 10%.
The violence has been primarily in one direction with the Boko Haram conducting a terror war against Christians. In contrast Christians have called for a peaceful reaction. Joseph Akor, director of communication of the Minna Diocese, after the Christmas bombing, said clergymen are appealing for peace. “We don’t believe in resorting to violence but will keep appealing to the government to ensure the security of every citizen and to our members to remain law abiding no matter the situation,” he said.
The killing of Christians in Nigeria has escalated since 1999 when Sharia law was imposed in 12 northern Nigerian states and parts of four others. Nigeria has been witness to the death of thousands of Nigerian Christians and the destruction of nearly one thousand churches.
In 2010 alone, an estimated 2,000 Christians were killed in clashes with Muslim extremists, with hundreds of churches burnt to the ground. During that time over 500 Christians were reportedly killed in brutal clashes with Muslims in the city of Jos in central Nigeria's Plateau state
That level of violence against Christians was repeated in 2011. In January, 35 Christians were killed in clashes with Muslims in the central Nigerian state of Bauchi; in February Jos was witness to 24 Christians killed in targeted attacks; and in May Muslims ambushed and killed 17 Christians in Bauchi state.
In April 2011, the presidential election of Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from Nigeria's predominantly Christian south, triggered a series of Muslim rampages which caused the death of 100 Christians and the burning of more than 40 churches. At this time, Boko Haram Imam, Abubakar Shekau, called for his followers to increase the violence, saying "Whomever we kill, we kill because Allah says we should kill and we kill for a reason."
In June 2011, the Nigerian government established a presidential committee which called for establishing dialogue with Boko Haram as the means by which to deal with the terror group. That peace overture was rejected by Boko Haram, which chose instead to utilize the intervening time to coordinate a series of suicide bombings and assassinations across Nigeria.
Mohammed Majeed Ali, a police chief from Bauchi, said, "I want to make it categorically clear that enough is enough…despite the fact that the Christian community has constantly remained peaceful, it has become a target for these extremist Muslims even when there is peace."
Yet, while Boko Haram may publicly stake claim for most of the killings of Nigeria's Christians, its actions have certainly found support among other Muslim Nigerians. Specifically, accusations have swirled that Boko Haram has been aided in some circumstances by Muslim soldiers in the Nigerian army.
Plateau's Governor Jonah Jang called for the immediate withdrawal of the Nigerian army because he believed Muslims in the army "have started taking sides in this religious crisis, and if they are not called to order it will be dangerous for the country."
Tragically, as events continue to dictate, Boko Haram's objectives can only be achieved by viciously eradicating a Christian presence in Nigeria.
Israel condemned "in the strongest terms" the terror attacks against three churches in Nigeria on Sunday -- Christmas day -- that killed dozens of people. "The government of Israel conveys its condolences to the government of Nigeria, the Nigerian people and the families of the victims, and wishes a speedy recovery to the injured," a Foreign Ministry statement read. The statement said Israel will be providing the Nigerian authorities with medical supplies to treat the injured.
Israel also offered to assist Nigeria in tackling the menace of terrorism in the country. The Deputy Head of Mission of the Israeli Embassy, Mr George Deek made the announcement at a gathering in Abuja on Jan. 19, 2012. Drawing examples of terrorism in Israel, Mr Deek said the embassy is willing to provide assistance to Nigeria in training and equipping Nigeria’s security agencies on counter terrorism to halt the menace eating up the Federal Government of Nigeria and the citizens.
“We are willing to help Nigeria fish out and expose the aliens who are perpetrators of the heinous and inhuman acts of terrorism and the technical knowledge of how to prevent suicide bombing is intelligence because without intelligence you cannot prevent and pre-empt a suicide bomber. We want to assist Nigerians on how to encounter these aliens because Nigeria is our neighbour which must not be left alone at this trying period.” Mr. Geroge Deek said.
Israel and Nigeria share economic and commercial ties with Nigeria being Israel’s second-largest export market in Africa. Nigeria and Israel signed a pact to boost trade and bilateral ties in 2009. The trade agreement focused on agriculture, tourism, IT and investment.
(Picture above is of participants at opening ceremony for two MASHAV International Courses on Intensive Dairy Production and on Poultry Production & Management at the Maizube Abu-Turab International Training Centre (MAITC), in Minna, the capital of Niger State in west central Nigeria.)
Many Israeli companies - specializing in water management, agriculture, communications, IT and hi-tech - employ hundreds of Nigerian workers in projects that are expanding Nigeria’s economy. Nigeria also participates in training courses run by MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, under which hundreds of Nigerian farmers, experts, educators, academics, students, doctors, community workers and engineers were trained in Israel. In addition, there is an annual movement of about 20,000 pilgrims from Nigeria to Israel.