Nigeria (MNN) ― A suicide car-bomb attack that killed 23 at the United Nations headquarters in Nigeria's capital last week has been claimed by a radical Muslim group with ties to the world's deadliest terrorists.
Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs explains, "Boko Haram actually translates into 'Western Education is a sin.' So this is a group who is very much opposed to what they would consider the westernization of Nigeria. They want the entire country to be under Sharia law. They want all the people of Nigeria to be Muslims."
What's more ominous, Nettleton says, is that "Boko Haram has a history of attacking Nigerian targets: police stations, government buildings, that kind of thing. This is their first reported attack on a Western target, but it shows, I think, what some of their ultimate efforts are going to be."
The sect wants to implement a strict version of Sharia law in the nation and has reported links to African terror groups al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and al-Shabab of Somalia. There were humanitarian aid groups housed in the building and other agencies present to help the region recover from natural disaster and war. However, Nettleton doesn't think that's how the hardliners viewed it. "The attack comes from that mindset that 'these are Westerners who are (in their words) invading our country. We've got to do whatever we can to get them out.'"
Nigerian police arrested 50 suspects in connection with the Abuja attack. However, the cycle of violence undermines the stability of the government headed by President Goodluck Jonathon, who is also a Christian. "The cycle typically in northern Nigeria is this: there are attacks, the government comes in, the army comes in, they try to put a lid on it, and they sort of stamp down the fire. It stays down for a little while, and then there's another attack, and the cycle begins again."
Although the President issued a statement against last Friday's attacks calling them "barbaric," there are concerns that the attacks will show a weak government and--should it continue--cause the people to look for someone who can bring the violence to heel.
What that means is: more attacks on vulnerable groups. One group that has already been struck hard multiple times this year is Christians. Asked if persecution will likely continue to worsen in this scenario, Nettleton responded, "There are radical groups who want to rid Nigeria of a Christian presence. They will attack Christian; they will attack churches. That will happen this year."
VOM has a strong presence in Nigeria, though. Aside from their normal aid, "We work with Nigerian Christians to get Bibles into the hands of people in Nigeria. Another program is our VOM medical program which provides medical care for people who are affected by acts of persecution."
People like church planters, Gospel workers, and church leaders have been increasingly targeted. When they are killed, they often leave behind families. VOM is part of stopping the cycle of violence here. "We are involved in a children's home that, in particular, focuses on the children of martyrs, the children of people who have been killed for their faith, providing them with a place to live, providing an education for them, and really, training up the next generation to lead the church in Nigeria."
The church continues to grow. Pray that Christians in Nigeria will demonstrate the love of Christ, in spite of the opposition they face. Pray, too, that Christians in Nigeria will take action to help their suffering brothers and sisters elsewhere in the country.
Source: Mission Network News