Boko Haram’s actions over recent months indicate that this is no idle threat.
Following a series of attacks on churches and other targets in five states over Christmas that left more than 40 people dead, the group on New Year’s Day issued a three-day deadline for Christians to leave the North. Unrelenting attacks have ensued, including the bombing of a number of churches as well as attacks on individual Christians.
Most recently, on 26 February, a suicide bomberdrove a car into the grounds of the Church of Christ headquarters in Jos. The vehicle exploded three metres from the church building; two women and an 18-month-old child were killed, and around 50 people were injured.
The violence is having the intended effect of driving Christians from the North. Nearly 95 per cent of the Christians have left Yobe State, where 20 churches have been torched and many lives have been lost.
Some are heading to the mainly Christian South, while others are crossing the border into Cameroon. The mass migration is precipitating a major humanitarian and spiritual crisis inNigeria; Northern Christians who have been forced to leave behind their homes and jobs are in great need, while, as the Christian presence diminishes, the Church is being wiped off the map in the North.
Boko Haram has killed around 1,000 people since 2009 in its bloody campaign to establish an Islamic state in Northern Nigeria. As well as attacking Christians, the group targets police, security forces and politicians, and also Muslim leaders who oppose its agenda. Over 300 people have been killed so far this year.
The government has been trying to curtail Boko Haram’s activities, deploying military units across the country, and arresting and killing a number of members in recent weeks. But, issuing the latest threat, the group’s spokesman said that the government “cannot be prepared for what is to come”.
Thank God that the Nigerian authorities are trying to thwart Boko Haram’s agenda; pray that they will have the resources they need and use them effectively.
Pray that the Lord will protect His people in Northern Nigeria and give church leaders wisdom as they seek to advise and care for their congregations.
Pray for all those who have been forced to flee their homes, that they will receive the practical and spiritual support that they need at this traumatic time.