Militants Turn Nigeria into Christian Killing Field

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Last year more Christians were killed in Nigeria than any other country. The onslaught of bombings gave Nigeria the sad distinction of being the nation with the highest Christian death toll.

More than 900 Christians reportedly were killed in Nigeria in 2012, all victims of the Boko Haram group and other Islamic militants.

"They are so radical they don't even spare Muslims. If Muslims are sympathetic to any cause at all...if they are sympathetic to the Christians cause, or the minorities cause, they are also termed as infidels," Mark Lipdo, program coordinator for the Stefanos Foundation, said.

In 2013, radicals have killed more than 120 Nigerians, most of them Christians.

Gregory Lar, an international human rights attorney, said, "It is happening at this time because it appears there is a new resurgence, a new Islamic awareness in the need to propagate their religion."

The new wave of violence has caused at least one group in Southern Nigeria to take up arms. They are determined to protect Christians.

Attorney Emmanuel Ogebe warns the country may be on the brink of broader conflict.

"Because of the massive Christian Muslim population in Nigeria, there is no country on Earth that is as rich and as ready for a religious war. All the elements, all of the ingredients are there," he said.

Ogebe's spoke at a recent conference sponsored by the Washington, D.C.-based Jubilee Campaign. Some panelists criticized the U.S. State Department's reluctance to blame the violence in Nigeria on Islamic extremism.

"The route they are taking is dangerous. It's against American interests and it is not positive. It's not sensible. The ultimate aim of this extremism -- it's not just to wipe out Christians. It will hit back here ultimately," said Ezie Eze Euluchie of Georgetown University Law Center.

For years, Islamic militants limited their attacks on Christians to the 12 northern Nigerian states where Shariah law is in place.

Now, they are pressing into central and southern states where Christians are in the majority.

World Magazine reporter Mindy Belz said the pattern is all too familiar.

"We've seen it happening in Sudan, we've seen it in Mali, we've seen it in parts of the Middle East and other parts of North Africa. When that happens what is growing up in there are also the seeds of terrorism that is targeting the West."

So, what is the solution to stop the attacks against Christians and others?

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has proposed a possible amnesty for Boko Haram terrorists, but Lipdo said amnesty would be a mistake.

"It goes to say that the government must have to succumb to the pressure of terror and then we see that it will go into reward for the perpetrator to continue to carry out his carnage. That is wrong," he said.

"The problem has gone beyond Nigeria alone," Lar said. "It actually has its roots in Mali and Libya. So, even if the Nigeria situation is well contained and the borders are not secure, you have not solved the problem," he said. 

It seems the future is dismal for Christians in Nigeria, but Lipdo suggests Christians united in prayer can make a difference.

"What we see is disunity that has taken on the Church, so the voiceless are not being represented," Lipdo said. "If we look to the person of Christ and avoid all these differences and come together, we will be able to give a voice to the voiceless and that is what we are called to do." 

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Gary Lane

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