Nigeria could stand on the brink of radical Islamization, according to a leading development official in the country.
Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, Fr. Obiora Ike, Director of the Catholic Institute for Development, Justice and Peace in Nigeria’s Enugu state, warned of the “Talibanization” of the African country. His words come shortly after clashes between radical Islamist movement Boko Haram (“Education is Sinful”) and security forces during which he estimates at least 500 people have been killed.
Fr. Ike said the country has reached a “new level” of violence following the recent attacks in the north of Nigeria that occurred between the 24th and 29th of July. The clashes with security forces follow attacks by Boko Haram on police stations in four states in retaliation for the arrests of the leaders of the group, which is demanding the imposition of Shari‘a law.
The violence began in the predominantly Muslim Bauchi state in the north of Nigeria, before spreading to nearby Yobe, Kano and Borno states. In Borno more than 100 people died during attacks on churches by radical Islamists on the 27th and 28th.
Fr. Ike said, “So far Islamists have proceeded almost exclusively against Christians, but now new radical groups have formed which are proceeding against all ‘Western agencies’ and also against other Muslims.” He told ACN that acts of violence by groups such as Boko Haram have also been directed against the governments of those federal states which have introduced Shari‘a law.
Since 2000, 12 of Nigeria’s 36 states in the north have begun enforcing Shari‘a law, not only in family law but also in criminal matters. Zamfara State has also set up an Imam Council.
The director of Enugu state’s Catholic Institute for Development, Justice and Peace believes that the rise of Boko Haram may foreshadow the formation of a large movement, which is spreading rapidly across country. He warned how the group regards Western schools and universities as “decadent” and said they might also move against Muslim educational facilities.Fr. Ike also fears that the current unrest could spread destabilizing Kano state and its twelve million inhabitants.
The priest called on Western governments to support Nigeria in the fight against militant Islamists and to help with providing education and reducing poverty.
Fr. Ike said the current problems are caused by “lack of education, lack of work, absence of skills, lack of money and lack of jobs which extends to lack of meaning in life.” He added, “These lead to ideological abuse and the hijacking of the youth by terrorists.”
In conclusion Fr Ike asked for prayers for the troubled region: “May we ask for your prayers as we continue on this side to work for peace and healing for Nigeria and the world.”
According to ACN’s 2008 report on Christians oppressed for their faith, Persecuted and Forgotten?, Christian communities in the 12 Shari‘a states have experienced widespread religious intolerance and discrimination. This includes false accusations of Christians blaspheming Islam, the demolition of Christian places of worship, and the abduction and forced conversion of teenagers to Islam, especially girls.