(Photo: CANAN USA video)
The Boston Marathon bombings last week shocked America and served as a reminder that the threat of terrorism in the western world is still alive. While offering condolences to the victims, one group is pointing out that Nigerian Christians face such horrors every week in the face of Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.
In an open letter to the American people this week, the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans (CANAN) wrote, "The evil of terrorism in today's world are now well-known and so too must be the demand of vigilance in the overall protection of the common good."
Laolu Akande, executive director of CANAN, is urging Americans to help protect Christians who are regularly attacked in Nigeria.
"We want fellow Christians in America to rise up in the face of the innocent Nigerian Christians who are the main target of Boko Haram," he said.
"These people are doing whatever they like, they have gone out of control, they are threatening the very peace and security of Nigeria, and that of the region," he told The Christian Post in a phone interview on Thursday.
"They have turned Christians into a group of sitting ducks. This is why we want American Christians to rise up and support our association, because we have decided to be the voice of the voiceless. We want American Christians to help us carry our message to the U.S. Congress and get the government to do what is right, which is to designate Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organization."
Boko Haram, the shadowy terrorist group in Nigeria, has killed close to 3,000 people in the last few years in the African country. The victims have been primarily Christians as the terrorist group seeks to drive them out of the country and declare Islamic control. It has bombed churches and government buildings, shot down congregations, killed pastors, and rejected a proposed amnesty agreement from the government to stop the attacks.
Despite all this, the U.S. government has failed to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist group, even though it admits specific members of the organization are terrorists.
"How can you say that Osama bin Laden is a terrorist, but al-Qaida the organization is not?" Akande told CP. "The only reason why the State Department does not want to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organization is for political reasons. It flies in the face of logic to say that three leaders in the group are terrorists but the group itself is not a terrorist organization."
CANAN is stressing that the threat of Boko Haram and radical Islam is growing beyond national borders.
"Boko Haram has gone beyond a domestic problem, it poses an international threat," Akande warned, noting that the Congressional Committee on Homeland Security has presented a report demonstrating that Boko Haram poses a threat to national interests.
He recalled some of the many stories he has heard straight from victims in Nigeria, including a Christian woman named Deborah Shettima, whose family was attacked by the terrorist group in 2012. Her husband was shot dead, her young daughters were abducted and have not been returned since, and three months later, the Islamic radicals returned to kill her high-school aged son.
According to Akande, such "barbaric" attacks occur almost on a weekly basis in Nigeria. He believes the hope lies in Americans and Christians around the world standing up to help stop this atrocity.
CANAN's website documents the extent of the crisis in Nigeria, featuring a number of testimonies, photos and videos on Boko Haram and their attacks on Christians.