A few days ago, whilst scrolling through my newsfeed, I saw an article from the Christian Post about something truly disturbing. Early last week in Nigeria, a Christian clergyman named Kayode Shogbesan was abducted from his church in the eastern city of Yola. With the rise of Boko Haram and Islamic militancy in recent years, abductions of Christian clergy in that country have become far more common in recent years.
In November, another clergyman, Pastor Moses Oyekele, was released by his Boko Haram captors after seven months of imprisonment. Reflecting a common strain in such kidnappings, Pastor Oyekele related that he was treated relatively well and constantly pressured to convert to Islam. For the terrorists in Boko Haram, conversions of prominent Christian clergy, through ‘good cop-bad cop’ means, offer significant propaganda victories. However, Oyekele was released when people at his church paid a listed ransom. Speculatively, such ransoms help Boko Haram pay militants, obtain armaments, and expand their criminal enterprises.
The scale of such anti-Christian violence in Nigeria, particularly in the northeast, is vast. The British Catholic NGO Aid To The Church In Need esimates that 5,000 women have been widowed and over 10,000 children have been orphaned by Islamist violence in the country in the last ten 8 years. This is not to mention the millions internally displaced within Nigeria. The situation in that country is severe enough that Open Doors USA, a leading watchdog group combating global anti-Christian violence and persecution, has ranked Nigeria at #12 on its watchlist.
However, last week’s abduction is particularly concerning. Despite international observers noting that Boko Haram has been losing ground for several years, this abduction took place fairly openly in a city that would be assumed to be safe for Christians. Since the beginning of Nigeria’s internal violence crisis, that city has been at the center of campaigns by global agencies and organizations, as well as Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency, to resettle displaced Christians. With a more desperate Boko Haram, and with other Hausa and Fulani radicals equally incensed, such bold abductions may become even more common in the region.
The United Nations has been running peacekeeping operations with Nigerian cooperation for many decades now, all over the world. While UN leadership, including former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have been content to offer lip service and speculative support to the Nigerian government in combating Boko Haram, they have been more involved elsewhere. Perhaps it’s time that the international community, and in particular Turtle Bay’s bureaucrats, do something more to aid Nigeria’s Christian community. It is just and right that the international community works towards ending anti-religious persecution. After all, religious repression is a flagrant affront to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The 48 countries which signed the UDHR should be especially outraged.
When many experts suspect that a weak security apparatus in Nigeria’s north is accountable for the roughshod Islamic militancy and anti-Christian terrorism, it is clear what should be done: improvements must be made Nigeria’s military and policing capabilities. Eight peacekeeping missions of the United Nations include “Security Sector Reform” operations. A special mission in northern Nigeria, or enhanced emphasis on the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel’s efforts toward security reform could play a crucial role in putting an end to anti-Christian violence in the region.
It is crucial, that moving forward, the United States uses its position in the United Nations, and its relations with African partners, to combat epidemic anti-Christian violence in Nigeria.