|(Cover photo by Associated|
Press /Sunday Aghaeze)
Nigeria (MNN) ― The Islamist group Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a number of sophisticated attacks. The group has strong links to al-Qaeda and has been growing quickly in the nine years since its inception.
Jerry Dykstra, spokesman forOpen Doors USA, says, "We've known that the situation in Nigeria has deteriorated this past year." Recent attacks prove they're intent on making good their threats to push for a caliphate (a government established in Islam) in Nigeria.
This year, bomb attacks ripped through three churches in central Nigeria on Christmas Day, killing over two dozen people. Investigators say the blast at one house of worship near the capital city, Abuja, struck as the service was ending and worshippers were filing out.
On Christmas Eve last year, a series of bomb blasts around Jos killed 32 people and wounded more than 70 others.
What's disconcerting about the attacks is that they're showing the militants have gone from sporadic bursts to planning designed to create the most fear and chaos among Christians. Dykstra explains, "As a result of them being more organized, we've seen more frequent attacks, (that has been underreported, I believe) and more coordinated, more sophisticated and even going into the South."
Nigerian leaders have been openly criticized by opponents for their slow response to the growing security threats.
Dykstra notes that the picture emerging bears a chilling resemblance to Iraq's remnant church. "According to people living in the country, the response of the government has been too slow. It looks like what happened in Iraq, where the churches were attacked, and the government did not protect any of those churches. Christians in Iraq fled."
Boko Haram's attacks risk reopening old wounds between the mostly-Muslim north and largely-Christian south. Church leaders in the most vulnerable areas are afraid they're being left to fend for themselves, a conclusion that Dykstra thinks will take the form of more violence against believers in 2012.
The terror they've created and their connection with al-Qaeda seems to have emboldened the Boko Haram. "What they want is really Sharia law all across Nigeria, and they want some of their members released from jail. I think it does not bode well for next year because there could be a civil war in Nigeria, and that could have tremendous repercussions."
Civil war would mean a significant disruption for church planters and others doing Gospel work. Pray for their partners.
"Nigeria is such a key country for Christians throughout all of Africa. They send out hundreds of thousands of missionaries," Dykstra notes, adding that regardless of what happens in the days ahead, "Open Doors is involved with supporting Christians in crisis situations like this, giving holistic community development, also distributing Bibles and training up leaders."