The term “Boko Haram” has a distinctly non-English sound to it. Rightly so, as it is the name of an Islamic terrorist group in Northern Nigeria.
Literally meaning “Western/book learning is evil,” this radical Muslim sect is committed to creating an Islamic, Sharia law-based society in Nigeria. To that end, the Boko Haram have bombed and burned hundreds of churches over the past decade; they are truly ecumenical, as their targets are both Catholic and Protestant.
Since its inception in 2001, the British Broadcasting Company reports that Boko Haram has murdered as many as 10,000 people, men, women, and children. Anyone professing Christianity is ripe for death in the twisted minds of Boko Haram’s members. As with their unconcern with denominations, they are equal-opportunity killers of all ages.
Despite their unvarnished record fanatical brutality, the U.S. State Department has not been willing to declare Boko Haram a “foreign terrorist organization.” Although State has designated several Boko Haram leaders as terrorists, its view of the movement itself seems more benign. Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson, testifying before FRC’s great friend U.S. Rep. Chris Smith’s House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights, sought to draw distinctions within Boko Haram – even though, after doing so, he called the group a “terrorist organization.”
Why is this important? In the words of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorney Benjamin Bull, “Such a designation triggers a variety of legal sanctions against the terrorist organization including freezing bank accounts, outlawing transfer of funds to support the group, expelling or arresting its members or associates in the U.S, and imposing sanctions on countries that provide support for the group.”
Yet the State Department’s Jason Small, deputy director of the Office of West African Affairs, argues that “We (the U.S.) are very concerned about how the designation would be received in northern Nigeria. We continue to make a strong case with the government; there are legitimate grievances people have in the northern states, they need to have a comprehensive government response, a more professionalized security response.”
“Legitimate grievances?” So profound that they justify murdering mourners at funerals, driving car-bombs into church buildings, and burning people alive? Even for those of us used to the slimy rhetorical ooze that masquerades as diplomatic tact, this is too much. Two months ago, the Boko Haram admitted its mission is nothing more than the violent overthrow of the Nigerian government and the end of Nigerian Christianity:
A Boko Haram spokesman has declared war on Nigeria’s government, the security services, and the country’s Christians. “I enjoy killing anyone that (Allah) commands me to kill the way I enjoy killing chickens and rams,” the spokesman said in a video released online.
Last month, FRC President Tony Perkins joined with our allies at ADF and the Jubilee Campaign, a Christian human rights organization, in signing a petition calling on our State Department finally to label the Boko Haram what it is, a foreign terrorist organization, and thereby helping to de-fund and arrest the spread of this vicious movement.
You can join Tony and FRC in signing this petition by going to the Jubilee Campaign’s website. Please join us in standing with Nigerian Christians whose only crime is their faith, whose only failing is remaining steadfast.