Correction. This story was updated Jan. 26 to correct an error in the third paragraph.
By Bob Allen
A Baptist leader in Nigeria has criticized the international community for inaction against terrorist attacks carried out by the increasingly rampant Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.
“My consternation is in the attitude of the international community toward the huge destruction going on in Nigeria,” Samson Ayokunle, president of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, said in recent comments to the Baptist World Alliance. “The earnestness with which they intervened in the ISIL attack in Syria and Iraq, or the Taliban problem in Afghanistan, etc., is not shown in the case of Nigeria.”
Boko Haram, which means “Western education is forbidden,” drew international condemnation after kidnapping 276 schoolgirls during a raid on a village in northeast Nigeria last April. Since then, the insurgency has only gotten stronger.
As many as 2,500 civilians were killed and 3,700 homes and businesses were destroyed by an attack by Boko Haram on the towns of Baga and Doro Baga near Nigeria’s border with Cameroon on Jan. 7. One of the deadliest terrorist attacks in modern history, the atrocity went largely unnoticed while an attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that killed 17 dominated the news cycle.
Last weekend the violence spread to Cameroon, when insurgents crossed over the border to kidnap about 80 people, many of them children, and killed three others, with sights set on establishing a Muslim caliphate governed by Sharia law. Analysts say Nigeria’s current military strategy against Boko Haram is unlikely to succeed.
Ayokunle charged the rest of the world with undervaluing African lives. “Are these people less human than those being killed in other places where they have gone to directly intervene?” he asked. “My people are being killed like animals and the whole world is just watching.”
The Baptist leader described the Boko Haram campaign as religious persecution.
“The main targets in all these attacks are the Christians first and any other person that opposes them,” he said. “Any town they enter, after killing the Christians there, they go ahead to bring down all the churches there sparing the mosques.”
Many of those being terrorized are Baptists. With approximately 3.5 million members in 10,000 churches, the Nigerian Baptist Convention is the largest member body of the Baptist World Alliance, a fellowship group uniting Baptists in more than 120 countries around the globe, including Europe and the United States.
Ayokunle said Baptist buildings including the offices of the secretariat of Fellowship Baptist Conference of the Nigerian Baptist Convention have been burned, and the home of the convention’s president was vandalized.
Pastors have fled to Jos, capital of the Plateau State in central Nigeria, which has experienced attacks by Boko Haram. A Baptist high school has been closed in Mubi, a town near the eastern border with Cameroon, while a Baptist pastor’s school in the neighboring town of Gombi has shut down indefinitely.
The BWA General Council condemned actions by Boko Haram in a “Resolution on Christians at Risk of Persecution” approved last July at a meeting in Izmir, Turkey.
BWA taps CBF as its liaison for religious liberty at the United Nations