Christian persecution in West Africa is intensifying after an imam in Nigeria declared the only way to settle the contentious religious grappling in the country is to begin a holy war.
The news comes days after Nigerian police, who were ordered to keep the peace between Christians and Muslims, killed a Christian mother of four.
Abubakar Shekau told his extremist sect, Boko Haram, to increase violence, namely assassinations and bombings. The group is responsible for killing 240 people this year, including 100 Christians last month.
“Whomever we kill, we kill because Allah says we should kill and we kill for a reason," Shekau says in a recording acquired by AP.
Boko Haram is gaining a dangerous amount of influence in the country according to peacekeeping officials. The group bombed a United Nations building in August.
Sunni Muslims make up over half of the country, and generally occupy the north. Christians of various denominations have lived in the south for decades. The western part of the state is split.
Much like the embattled nation of Sudan, which has gained notoriety in recent years due to the purported genocide in Darfur, Nigeria’s difficulties are partly related to religion - and largely related to geography.
Over 500 people died in a bout of violence last year in the town of Jos, which sits along the border of the Muslim north and Christian south. That event has spurred violence over the last year. Proximity has bred contempt between many communities-particularly in the agricultural middle region of the country.
The most recent victim of the violence was the Christian mother of four killed late last month.
Soldiers informed to maintain peace shot and killed Charity Augustine Agbo and a teenage boy after a dispute at a high school soccer match grew into a riot.
“Three soldiers arrived in a Hilux vehicle with siren blaring, scaring us and forcing us to run into our houses,” the victim’s husband, Augustine Agbo, reportedly said. “When we all ran inside, we saw these three soldiers coming to our house; then we locked the outside gate, but the soldiers followed us and broke the glass door and forced the door open and shot my wife twice on the chest.”
It remains unknown why the woman was killed. The teenage boy who was also killed was not related to Agbo.
Though animosity is prevalent throughout the country, violence does not exist between the greater communities of Muslims and Christians. Violence is mostly initiated by the radical Muslim sects that have brought terror to many parts of the region. Experts in the area are concerned the increasing influence of the imam may cultivate what was animosity into violence.
The imam’s warning of further violence may prompt immediate action from peacekeeping forces and governments around the world. The U.N. forces have occupied Nigeria for nearly as long as the organization has existed.
Police chief of the region in which the woman was killed, Mohammed Majeed Ali, believes his local crisis has been contained but hopes the national trend is curbed soon.
“I want to make it categorically clear that enough is enough,” Ali told Compass News. “[Because] despite the fact that the Christian community has constantly remained peaceful, it has become a target for these extremist Muslims even when there is peace.”