The Boko Haram and the Nigerian United Methodist Church
The country of Nigeria has been in the press with stories of bombings, kidnapping of 250+ girls, burning churches and causing turmoil in villages located in northern Nigeria. Nigeria is the size of North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa with a majority of Muslims living in the northern states which border Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Mali. It is in this area that the militant group known as Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is a sin,” is trying to impose their Sharia law. The Boko Haram targets Christians with hundreds being killed in the last several years.
The Nigerian Government has not addressed this terrorist problem thus allowing attacks to continue in northeast Nigeria. With the recent kidnapping of 276 school girls taking exams in Chibok, a world wide protest has occurred with the cry being “bring back our girls.” The school girls kidnapping – which the group has taken responsibility for – is just the latest attack in a brutal campaign of violence it has been waging for years against what it sees as the corrupt, Westernized and oil-obsessed government in the majority Christian south.
Nigeria officials have invited assistance from world powers as the U.S., United Kingdom, and China to help find the girls and train security and military forces.
The United Methodist Church of Nigeria is located in north central Nigeria, south of the states being affected by the Boko Haram. In Jalingo, the capital of Taraba State and headquarters of the UMCN, there is a ban on the use of motorcycles in the city. In Adamawa and Borno States cell phones and the internet had been banned.
Our group flies into Yola, located in the southern part of Adamawa State, and then drives to Jalingo where we stay at the church guest house. During our stay in Nigeria, we travel to very rural, remote villages, off the beaten path, where religious groups peacefully coexist. In the past several years our stay in Nigeria has been without incident.
While we Iowans can return home, our Nigerian church friends live with insecurity and a sense of fear not knowing where, when or why an incident might take place. Let us raise our prayers to God for their safety and ability to continue the Lord’s work in their land. Pray that the kidnapped girls be found and returned to their homes. Our Iowa work team of fifteen members will appreciate prayers as we depart for Nigeria on June 9.