Nigerian Christians Among Millions Displaced Feel Abandoned by Western Churches, Frank Wolf Says

(Photo: REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde)Christians in Nigeria suffering under continued terror attacks in this undated photo.

Former Congressman Frank Wolf has noted that Christians in Nigeria, who are among the millions of displaced people suffering due to the action of radical groups, are feeling abandoned by Western churches that are failing to speak out on the developing humanitarian tragedy.

Wolf, who is a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, told The Christian Post in a phone interview that he was part of a delegate team that visited Nigeria in February, and got to witness first hand the difficulties that internally displaced people face.

"People of faith, Christians, feel very much forgotten. Nigeria is fractured and is breaking down in so many ways, and it seems that the world has forgotten about it," he reflected on his interactions with Christians there.

"They feel abandoned by the West, and by the Church in the West. You are not hearing many in the West advocating (for them). They would expect that the faith community in the West, Europe, would be advocating, speaking out," Wolf told CP.

While Nigerian Christians and regular citizens have been targeted by the radical Boko Haram group since 2009, there has also been a very alarming rise in attacks carried out by Fulani herdsmen against Christian farmers in land disputes, leading to hundreds of deaths in the past year.

Groups such as the International Christian Concern have said that the raids on Christian farmers are at least partly motivated by religion, but Wolf said that the Fulani attacks are a combination of various factors.

He added that terror concern in the African country has been rising rapidly in the past few years, with some today even more worried about the Fulani radicals than Boko Haram.

"Everywhere we went, the issue of Boko Haram came up. But secondly, the issue of the Fulani militants came up even more," the former Congressman said of his trip.

The 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, which is focused on promoting religious freedom as a fundamental human right, put together a detailed report on the crisis in Nigeria, and made several recommendations for how the United States government can help.

Wolf said that the first recommendation is especially important, namely creating a Special Envoy for Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region.

The report, titled "Nigeria-Fractured and Forgotten," explains the idea behind this Special Envoy: "Ensure that this office is appropriately staffed and resourced to serve as the key interlocutor, building multi-stakeholder engagement and addressing the wide range of complex realities involving refugees, IDPs, economic development, security, justice and peacebuilding."

The report also challenges some narratives that Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has put forth, such as notions that Boko Haram has been "technically defeated."

It says that although there are signs to show that Boko Haram has lost ground and has been pushed back in some areas, the attacks on civilians and people of faith continue in full force, and the situation on the ground remains largely unchanged.

The report insisted that claims of pushing back Boko Haram "should be best understood as political rhetoric which is not without its own merit as a tool for galvanizing support, shifting momentum and undercutting the narrative Boko Haram wants to maintain."

Wolf also noted that although much of the world is focused right now on the Islamic State terror group and the Syrian refugee crisis, that concerns around 23-25 million people – yet Nigeria is a nation of 180 million, and is the largest African country.

"The impact for the rest of the world will be unbelievable," he said of the consequences of Nigeria breaking apart.

He added that the West must pay closer attention to Nigeria, given how affected the country is by radical terrorism. Boko Haram was the most destructive terrorist group in the world in 2015, with IS, its affiliate, coming in at second.

"The fourth biggest terrorist group is the Fulani militant herdsmen. The first and the fourth are in Nigeria. The first has an agreement or an allegiance with the second," Wolf observed.

Wolf, who was elected to Congress in 1981 and served Virginia's 10th District for 17 terms, said there are several issues that need to be tackled in Nigeria to stop the country from unraveling, such as making sure that police are properly trained in human rights, and implementing programs against corruption.

He warned that "no one seems to be in charge" of the Nigerian issue as President Barack Obama's administration enters its last months, but insisted that America should not wait around for a new president before taking action to help the millions of IDPs.