On Christmas Day, some 300 people almost died when Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to blow up the holiday travelers on Northwest Airlines Flight #253. Regardless of any pronouncements to the contrary by the DHS Secretary, State Department, Attorney General, President Obama, ACLU, Code Pink, C.A.I.R., or anyone else who believes in a kinder, gentler Islamic terrorism, this was not criminal activity, but jihad. All have heard how previous to clamming up at the advice of his terrorist-defending attorney, the Panty-Pyrotechnician boasted to FBI agents that there were many potential jihadists just like him in Yemen. What he did not mention is that there are also thousands of active jihadists back home in Nigeria, nor that Yemen was not the only place training Nigerian terrorists.
An incendiary crotch may be a new twist, as it were, but the struggle against infidels for the global domination of Islam is an ongoing one that spans from Saudi Arabia to Sudan, from Denmark to Detroit, from Brussels to Boston. It is just that so far, jihad usually takes a different form in the United States – relying on the kindness (gullibility, naiveté, and political correctness) of strangers and the paralysis of the United States government, as democracy is turned inside out to the advantage of its enemies. That may not always be the case.
In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, jihad has been more aggressive. Inter-religious violence resulting from radical Islam has been responsible for the deaths of over 50,000 people in the past ten years in Nigeria. Although state religion is ostensibly a violation of the country’s national, secular constitution, 12 out of 36 states have instituted Shari’a (Islamic law) as the highest legal authority. And, as is usually the case, Shari’a has opened the door to unchecked persecution of non-Muslims.
In states where Islam does not hold complete sway, Islamists are doing their damnedest to change the situation. Such is the case in Jos, the capital of Plateau State in Nigeria’s middle belt. Violence broke out in Jos on Sunday, January 17, 2010. (Interesting, how many attacks on Christians take place on Sunday or on holy days, such as Christmas.) Most media reported “conflicting accounts” of the origin of the attacks, in which nearly 500 people were killed. In Times Online, State Commissioner of Police Greg Anyating said that the violence began with Muslim youths setting fire to a church. But Muslims have denied this claim and blame Christian youths stopping a Muslim man from rebuilding his house for triggering the violence.
Compass Direct New Service further details the attack that almost wiped out a small village on the outskirts of Jos. Their sources confirm that the violence began with an unprovoked attack on worshippers at St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church. “Some Muslim youths invaded some churches and started burning and destroying properties,” said Rev. Chuwang Avou of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). “We were told that the youths pursued a lady to the church. Nobody knew what the lady did. What we just discovered was that the entire atmosphere was ignited and houses were being burned,” he continued.
In addition to St. Michael’s, the Muslim youths, in a true spirit of ecumenism, burned the buildings of churches of several Protestant denominations, as well. Christ Apostolic Church, the Assemblies of God Church, three branches of the Church of Christ in Nigeria and two buildings of the Evangelical Church of West Africa were all burned. Times Online says that volunteers discovered bodies “shoved into communal wells and sewer dumps.” They also found the bodies of those killed by gunshot and machete in the bush outside the village. Surprisingly, only 2 pastors and 46 other Christians were originally confirmed killed amongst all the dead, according to CAN.
But Archbishop of Jos in the Anglican Church of Nigeria, the Most Rev. Dr. Benjamin Kwashi, said that Christians were in tears during worship the next Sunday because of missing family and friends whose bodies they have been unable to find. “This means that the corpses we are shown on television in the mosque must include people the Muslims have killed,” said Kwashi in the January 26 Times Online. “Quite a number of local people, Christians and other non-Muslims, are finding that people are missing. They have been looking around for the last three days and can’t find them. They have come to the conclusion that their bodies are among the corpses in the mosque that are being used to whip up emotion against the church,” he said. Kwashi called on Muslims to “hand back the dead.”
In a letter posted to web site Anglican Mainstream, Kwashi asked, “Who identified the corpses to certify that these are Muslim corpses in the mosque? Where were they taken from? What is the aim of taking corpses to the mosque and displaying them to the world?” he continued.” Suppose Christians took corpses to the church and displayed them to the world, what would be the outcome?” he demanded.
Archbishop Kwashi criticized the media for making the Christians the scapegoats, granting moral equivalency to the attacks of the Islamists and the actions of their victims to defend themselves. He made it clear that the Nigerian Christians should not be blamed for responding to defend themselves against unprovoked attack. But at the same time he called for peace and said the Bible ruled out retaliation. “The Gospel that I preach does not allow for vengeance in the face of provocation,” he explained to Times Online religion correspondent, Ruth Gledhill.
Kwashi does not speak lightly or hypocritically. In recent years, he and his family survived two deadly attacks. Early in 2006, an armed gang of Islamists broke into his home in Jos. Kwashi was out of the country, or he probably would have been killed. As it was, his wife, Gloria, was brutally assaulted and two of the couple’s sons were severely beaten. Mrs. Kwashi’s injuries left her blind until her sight was restored later in the year after treatment and much prayer with church friends in the United States.
The Kwashis were targeted again in July 2007. This time Kwashi was present when a gang came in the middle of the night. The men forced him out to the backyard. Then, the bishop says, “They changed their minds” and brought him back to the house. The bishop, believing he was going to die, knelt to pray. But instead of killing him, the gang looted the house and left. The bishop believes that the prayer of brothers and sisters around the world protected him that night.
Protection is definitely required to survive as a Christian in the midst of the ongoing jihad in Nigeria. The January riots came just as Nigerian Christians were beginning to recover from horrific attacks that took place last summer. In July 2009, Boko Haram, an Islamic terrorist group whose name means “western civilization is forbidden” launched a series of attacks on church and state facilities in 4 northern and central states. Known as the “Nigerian Taliban,” Boko Haram militants killed hundreds, maybe thousands, and used Christians as human shields against the security forces. The head of the Nigerian Red Cross reported that kidnapped survivors of the Boko Haram attack provided chilling testimonies of captured security service personnel being hacked to death and of Christian men being forced to choose between conversion or beheading. According to estimates by the Nigerian Red Cross Society, more than 1000 children lost parents in the July clashes.
According to Archbishop Kwashi, one hopeful sign, being ignored by the media, is that in many parts of Jos and the wider Plateau State, in spite of “the misinformation, rumor, and media reports” Christians and Muslims “have chosen to seek understanding, mutual respect and community life together” and a way to defeat the jihadists. In that spirit, on January 28, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) at a press conference revealed information that it had received from a Muslim cleric who is disgusted with the behavior of the jihadists and confirmed reports of the growth and agenda of Boko Haram.
PFN chairman, Rev. Sam Alaha said that Muslim cleric Mohammed Bala Ahmed had confirmed to them that over 3800 Boko Haram members had been trained by the Taliban in terrorist camps in Sudan. These particular jihadists, he said, were specifically “prepared for the fight in Jos,” revealing in just this one example the extent of the organizing and long-range planning of global jihad.
Ahmed continued that after the July attacks when the Boko Haram were routed by Nigerian security forces, they retreated to the bush where they were training youth “for the purpose of attacking Christians in the entire northern part of the country.” Alaha concluded the press conference by warning that until this “root is traced and totally excised” they would see their city “still smoking in their hands without provocation.”
In August 2009, Boko Haram itself released a statement in which it declared “total jihad in Nigeria,” threatening to Islamize and enslave the entire nation (something it may have picked up from the terrorist training camps in Sudan). The statement continued:
The Boko Haram is an Islamic Revolution which impact is not limited to Northern Nigeria, in fact, we are spread across all the 36 states in Nigeria, and Boko Haram is just a version of the Al Qaeda which we align with and respect. We support Osama bin Laden, we shall carry out his command in Nigeria until the country is totally Islamised which is according to the wish of Allah.
A week after the attacks in Jos, one of Archbishop Kwashi’s fellow Anglican bishops, the Most Rev. Peter Imasuen, the bishop of Benin Diocese in Edo State in southern Nigeria, was kidnapped after celebrating Sunday Mass at the cathedral. One can hope that the kidnappers, who have demanded the equivalent of $300,000 U.S. as ransom, are “mere criminals” and not jihadists. Then there may be a chance for his safe release. But the other actions in Jos, and elsewhere, are the actions of jihad. Archbishop Kwashi said: “At the heart of this is that they [Muslims] want to overrun this part of the world and make it Islamic. The operation is like terrorism.” Like terrorism and like jihad. Very much like them in fact.
Faith J. H. McDonnell directs The Institute on Religion and Democracy’s Religious Liberty Program and Church Alliance for a New Sudan, and is the author of Girl Soldier: A Story of Hope for Northern Uganda’s Children (Chosen Books, 2007).