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Africa's God Wars
Boko Haram Strikes Churches in Nigeria

On Sunday, Boko Haram militants attacked four churches in Borno, Nigeria, killing more than thirty people and burning down churches. These are only the latest in an escalating series of attacks by the terrorist group. Just last week, its members attacked a Nigerian military compound and killed more than fifty soldiers. The increasingly well-armed Boko Haram militants had the upper hand in terms of firepower, reports The New York Times:

Survivors said the militants arrived in armored personnel carriers mounted with antiaircraft guns and were armed with rocket launchers and submachine guns much heavier than the soldiers’ AK-47 assault rifles. The insurgents abducted many soldiers who remain missing, they said.

Sunday’s church attacks are getting special attention because they took place in a town just miles from where more than 200 girls were kidnapped, setting off a media firestorm.

Boko Haram is notorious, among many other violent acts, for a signature tactic: asking victims to recite Koranic verses from memory and killing those who cannot. The choice of churches as a place of attack further escalates and highlights the religious nature of the conflict. Given the historical intractability of ethnic and religious conflicts in demographically heterogeneous areas, expect to see Africa’s God Wars get worse in the near term.

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  • gabrielsyme

    Part of the problem is that Islamic aggression faces military but no religious counterattack. For the bloodthirsty zealot, this means there is relatively little downside: Islam attacks out, but is never itself attacked. Muslims will kidnap, rape and supposedly “convert” Christian schoolgirls knowing their opponents will never do such a thing. Nor should they; but an aggressive and state-supported propaganda strategy could take the wind out of Islamist sails; ministers could be given security details to ensure their security in Muslim areas; Muslim leaders could be particularly targetted for evangelical efforts and so forth. The Christian message is one of peace and justice, so it cannot stoop to the methods of Islamists; but if Nigeria and other nations ignore the religious aspect of this conflict, they make long-term security much harder to obtain.

    • FriendlyGoat

      You’re right about a huge need for the “propaganda” aspect, except “propaganda” is not quite the right word for spreading the clear message that Islam is simply a false philosophy—irrespective of whether some other religion, such as Christianity, is better or not. The need to liberate Islam-captured minds is worldwide and there is no reason why dispelling this falsehood must be left to only the efforts of competing religions, such as Christianity. Everyone who does not wish to live in danger and tyranny has a stake in this, just as they had a stake in opposing Hitler, Stalin or Mao. That huge need, however, cannot and does not “draft” Jesus to lead whatever killing army may appear as necessary.

      • gabrielsyme

        Well, I certainly speak as a Christian and as someone who rejects an absolutist church/state separation. That said, I think secularists ought to be able to affirm the use of publicly-funded security for Christian ministers & missionaries. Where one religious group is using violence, the public interest is served by evening the scales at least to the extent of offering extensive support for security.

        I am sceptical that atheistic arguments against Islam will go very far in most of the Muslim world; nor is state-sponsored secular argumentation any less biased than state-sponsored Christian communication. The secular state is not neutral towards religion, though in its post-WWII guise, it has been fairly benign (though that too is changing).

  • solstice

    “Islamic jihad” is the apt term to use here–not “God wars.” The aggression is coming from Islam and it is taking place not only in Africa but all over the world.

  • Breif2

    “Boko Haram is notorious, among many other violent acts, for a signature tactic: asking victims to recite Koranic verses from memory and killing those who cannot.”

    Not having had the benefit of a madrasa education, I am dependent on Muslims for my understanding of Islam. Here are some things they have assiduously taught me:

    “Allāhu Akbar” means “I will kill you, infidel!”
    “B-ismi-llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīmi” means “I submit, please spare my life!”

    I hasten to add that said Muslims are most assuredly misunderstanding Islam, which is a religion of Peace.

    Please spare my life.

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