|(Photos courtesy Compass Direct News)|
(MNN) ― The Boko Haram is stepping up the pace of making good on their threat against Christians in Nigeria.
Military authorities say two Christians were gunned down Monday night in the Northeast in separate attacks despite an increased security presence in the area.
That brings to 54 the number murdered by Boko Haram since an ultimatum to force Christians to the South expired on January 3. President and CEO of Open Doors USA, Carl Moeller says, "Boko Haram is fast becoming one of the world's most notorious terrorist groups. This extremist branch of Islam is really stepping up the violence against the Christians with the expressed intent to spread Sharia law throughout the entire country."
There's a secondary motive that is more insidious. Moeller explains, "One of the other goals of Boko Haram that has been stated as well, is much more threatening, and that's to destabilize the entire country. The recent attacks are pointing in the direction of making this much more threatening for the entire government."
President Goodluck Jonathan imposed a state of emergency just over a week ago in 15 parts of the country most vulnerable to attack. The violence is stirring up sectarian tensions that could erupt into a scene of carnage. "The Bishops of Nigeria have called on the Christians in the Northern States to defend themselves, whereas in the past, they've tried to rely on the government to be the protection for the Christians, but the government has proven that it's incapable of actually protecting its own citizens."
Open Doors reports an attack on January 5 left nine Christians dead and 19 wounded in Gombe state. Days before, Compass Direct confirmed another massacre in which at least 21 Christians were killed in Adamawa state.
Although the government is trying to respond, church leaders are infuriated at their vulnerability, which could play right into the extremist sect's hands. Moeller explains, "Christians will be defending their towns, their villages, their churches, and their families against this kind of violence that can only do one thing: to decrease the respect for the rule of law in Nigeria."
Moeller notes that "Nigeria is so important to the spread of Christianity throughout Africa. Please pray with me for the Christians in Nigeria and to give wisdom to President Goodluck Jonathan in dealing with the attacks and instability."
In an uncertain time, Open Doors comes alongside Christians who have been victimized and traumatized in these situations. Their teams provide physical, emotional and spiritual help. Moeller adds that another interesting effect is more interest in the Gospel. "When Christians are willing to be killed simply for following Jesus, that tends to inspire curiosity among those who are looking into it."
Nigeria is ranked No. 13 on the Open Doors World Watch List of 50 countries which are the worst persecutors of Christians. According to World Watch List, Nigeria had at least 300 martyrs in 2011, although the actual number could be doubled or tripled. That number is the most in any country although North Korea could have had more but information is hard to obtain due to the isolation of the communist state.