Escalating religious violence between Islamic terror sect Boko Haram and mostly Christian rural communities in Nigeria has been increasing this week, raising questions about when and if the international and Christian communities should intervene.
A blast killed at least 17 people on Wednesday in the embattled city of Kaduna in the central region of the country. Police immediately dismissed the explosion as a faulty gas cylinder, not the work of Boko Haram.
“It is a very sad incident and as at now we are still working and fire is raging, and if you observe this is where they sell batteries, acid and gas and we are suspecting it is within and not saboteurs,” Kaduna State Police Commissioner Ballah Magaji Nasaraw told reporters.
But several eyewitnesses claim they saw motorcyclists instigate the explosion – a hallmark of Boko Haram, which has attacked in the city several times recently.
Two fuel tankers blew up last month within minutes of each other at opposite sides of the country’s capital city of Abuja. Police dismissed the explosions as coincidence then too, immediately denying reports that Boko Haram was responsible.
The explosions in Abuja came days after the U.S. warned Boko Haram was determined to attack in the capital – warnings Nigerian President Goodluck Johnathan brushed off.
Mounting pressure from Christians within the country – including a whole community exiled early last month after Boko Haram torched the city of Maiduguri – is being placed on Johnathan.
To date, Johnathan has sent three troops of soldiers to Yobe state, where a Nov. 4 attack killed more than 150 people, including 120 Christians. A 24-hour curfew was issued, but was lifted after only eight hours. Two people were killed shortly thereafter.
Scores of police motorcades, churches and government buildings have all been bombed and attacked in recent weeks.
Johnathan has asked for Christians to pray for Nigeria, though he called Boko Haram a “temporary problem.”
Indeed, the question now is not whether the Nigerian government is doing enough – all sources close to the situation indicate that it is not – but what the international and Christian communities can do to help the persecuted.
A U.S. Congressional report issued last week claimed that Boko Haram now poses a threat to American national security. That Boko Haram is linking up with other terror groups, including the increasingly prevalent al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), may spur the U.S. and Western governments into action.
Canadian officials sent specially trained military personnel into Mali this week to train Malian soldiers in the fight against AQIM. No concerted effort from the West to supplement the Nigerian military has been made.
The problem has multiple causes.
First, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation and exports a massive amount of crude oil every year – much of it to the U.S. Johnathan continues to be aggressive towards foreign investors and rejects any claims that Boko Haram is a real issue in the country.
Second, the people who are most affected by terrorists are either in remote or dangerous locations, so advocacy groups cannot reach them.
Finally, Boko Haram is an amoebic sect whose actions and organization are not quite clear. Their affiliation with AQIM and groups in neighboring countries not only helps with recruiting members, but also aids in maintaining and developing trade and travel routes to nations that harbor and support terrorists.
The issue appears to be both a political and Christian problem; indeed, it is a human problem. While advocacy groups say Western governments should be more aggressive with the Nigerian government, inherent issues in global politics threaten to delay international intervention for the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, thousands of Christians – and residents of other faiths – are getting displaced and killed.