|Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.|
(Cover image courtesy Voice of the Martyrs.
Story photo courtesy Flickr/GovermentZA )
Given the events of the last month, is the state of emergency effective in curbing the Boko Haram?
Not exactly. Violence has been increasing over the past few months. Todd Nettleton, a spokesman with the Voice of the Martyrs USA, says, "Boko Haram means ‘Western education is a sin' or ‘Western education is evil,' so they are going after educational institutions. They're going after schools that they perceive to not be teaching the correct radical Islamic ideology."
Nettleton is referencing the attack on a secondary school dormitory in Yobe around 1:00AM on Sunday.
More than 40 students, many of them Muslims, died. Coincidental? It came just after the government promised protection and urged schools in Yobe to re-open after earlier similar attacks. Nettleton asks, "When will the general population of Northern Nigeria--which is heavily Islamic-- turn against Boko Haram and say, ‘Hey, we have had enough?'"
Other news accounts surfaced indicating President Goodluck Jonathan pledged a national dialogue to heal a "divided" Nigeria. Earlier accounts seemed to point to negotiations and peace talks with the Boko Haram.
However, Nettleton says when he took that issue up with church leaders, "Their number one response was: ‘Who are we negotiating with? People who will not step forward; they will not have a name and a face and admit what they are doing, and admit who they are. How are we going to negotiate with those people? Even if we come to an agreement, how are we going to hold them to it?'"
"The renewed violence is creating uncertainty and fear among people," reported an Open Doors worker. "It is intensifying an already explosive atmosphere as the government continues its battle against Boko Haram."
The violence is expected to continue, if not worsen. Nettleton explains, "Next year, there will be national elections in Nigeria. Goodluck Jonathan is running for president again. I would assume that one or probably more than one Muslim candidate for president will be running against him."
Nettleton goes on to say that in the grasp for political power, an insurgency could be enough to tip the balance. "As Boko Haram can create chaos and make Goodluck Jonathan and his government appear powerless, they affect the political process. They affect what the voters do and what the voters think."
The Islamist agenda for Nigeria is to bring the whole country under the House of Islam, using whatever method works. For believers, the months ahead will be the ultimate test their faith. "It's an act of courage just to go to church on Sunday. It takes some courage to do that because you realize our church could be targeted. We could be bombed. There could be gunmen that come to the church . That changes how they function."
Fear is pervasive among churches. Security has been beefed up in many places. Christians don't feel safe. Isolation and separation can lead to discouragement and intimidated silence. That's what we have to pray against, urges Nettleton. Stated another way, he says, "I think one of the first things to pray for is a sense of encouragement and a sense of passionately following the Lord even though there is risk, even though it is dangerous."
Pray that God will intervene to preserve their places of worship, fellowship, and teaching. Give thanks that believers are responding to recent pressure with increased prayer, evangelism, and care for Muslim Background Believers. Click here for a look at some past issues Nigeria's believers have had to contend with.