Radical Islamic group Boko Haram has forced Catholics, Anglicans, and Pentecostals to unite and fight against the violence.
For the first time in history, the country’s “confederation of Christian churches” is “jointly endorsing a commitment to revive churches” on which Boko Haram has inflicted pain and destruction for the past decade.
“Most of the time, our brethren from southern Nigeria are ignorant of what is happening in northern Nigeria,” explained Samuel Dali, president of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, who added, “We want the churches in the south and other parts of Nigeria to see this terrorism as not only for the churches in the north but for the whole country, because whatever affects Christians in northern Nigeria, eventually it will affect the rest of the country.”
In 2015, Boko Haram killed over 4,000 Christians, an increase from 62%.
They signed the agreement after the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Open Doors released their study “Crushed but Not Defeated: The Impact of Persistent Violence on the Church in Northern Nigeria.”
The organizations found Boko Haram has killed “between 9,000 to 11,500 Christians,” which is “a conservative estimation.” They also discovered Christians have lost “13,000 churches that have either been destroyed or closed down.” More than 1.3 million people “have become internally displaced or have settled in other areas of Nigeria” for the past 15 years.
“This is the first time we’re going public to sign a declaration which gives the true picture of the persecution Christians are going through in this country,” stated Musa Asake, CAN general secretary. “This event gives us an opportunity to let the entire world know what the Christians in Nigeria have been going through.”
In January, Boko Haram burned children alive and massacred hundreds more in a village in northeast Nigeria. Witnesses saw bodies burned and filled with bullets on the street. A man saved himself when he hid behind a tree, able to see the jihadists burn the children alive.
Others said the attack lasted for four hours. They saw at least three female suicide bombers blow themselves up as people tried to escape.
Last month, Christians in Cameroon gathered together at mosques to protect Muslims near the Nigerian border from Boko Haram. The group recently attacked a fifth mosque during morning prayer, using a 14-year-old boy and killing four people. Boko Haram’s usual targets include churches, markets, and populated areas. After feeling its wrath for almost six years, Christians say they united to make sure Muslims do not suffer as much as they have.
“I feel frustrated seeing my brothers and sisters dying. I must act while praying to God to send his angels and warriors to fight Boko Haram because he is the merciful God of armies,” said Joseph Klofou of the Protestant Church of Cameroon.
Some Muslims also protect Christians during their weekly worship.
“I am out to fight because Boko Haram is a group of bad people. Islam condemns all that they have been doing to both Christians and Muslims who are all God’s creatures even though they have religious differences,” declared Djafarou Alamine of the central mosques.
In August, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari demanded his military destroy Boko Haram in three months. On Christmas Eve, Buhari asserted the military met its deadline and had won the war against Boko Haram, since the terrorist group could allegedly no longer launch massive attacks.
“I think, technically, we have won the war,” he said. “Boko Haram is an organized fighting force, I assure you, [but] we have dealt with them.”
A week later, female suicide bombers attacked Maiduguri and killed more than 80 people.
The attacks continued, spreading into neighboring countries Chad and Cameroon.
In late December, a female bombed a town in Cameroon’s north region. Other Boko Haram militants encircled three food trucks but did not kill anyone.