Boko Haram extremists and others have killed nearly as many Nigerian Christians in the first seven months of this year as were killed in all of 2013, the advocacy group Jubilee Campaign reported Tuesday (July 29).
Approximately 1,505 Nigerian Christians have been killed for their faith to date this year, compared to 1,783 Nigerian Christians killed in all of last year, based on Jubilee’s tally of deaths on its blog FactsNigeriaViolence.org, a compilation of reports from various news sources.
The 2014 total to date is nearly 85 percent of those killed in all of last year.
In attacks targeting religious communities, Boko Haram and others also killed Muslims, government officials, and other civilians in Northern Nigeria, for a total of 4,239 deaths to date this year, compared to 3,124 deaths in all of 2013, Jubilee reported.
Christians killed to date include seven fathers of the 223 Chibok school girls still missing after Boko Haram kidnapped more than 300 students in mid-April. The men were killed July 20 when Boko Haram attacked Damboa, just 52 miles from the Borno state capital of Maiduguri, and hoisted Boko Haram flag there, the Associated Press reported.
Boko Haram and others have killed at least 52 Muslims this year, compared to 66 in all of 2013 Jubilee reported. Based on an interview with Emmanuel Ogebe, manager of Jubilee Campaign’s Justice for Jos Project, Morning Star News reported a trend this year of Boko Haram targeting some Muslims primarily because they cooperate with the Nigerian military.
“The pattern therefore is that if you do not do what they demand, even if you are Muslim, you become an ‘apostate’ deserving of death,” Ogebe said. “Therefore the difference between Boko Haram’s approach to Christian ‘infidels’ and Muslim apostates is you are killed as a Christian ‘just because’ your name is Christian – you go to church, etc. – whereas Muslims are generally killed ‘for cause,’ for example working for the government or refusing to pay extortion taxes to Boko Haram.”
In terms of the number of faith communities attacked, 75 Christian communities were assaulted in the first six months of this year, compared with eight attacks on Muslim communities, the group reported. Christian communities were defined as churches, pastors, predominantly Christian enclaves and other explicitly Christian targets. Muslim communities were defined as imams or explicitly Muslim targets, though Jubilee noted Boko Haram itself insists that it does not target mosques.
“Prior to 2014, all so-called mosque attacks were assassination attempts on prominent Muslims who disagreed with Boko Haram,” Jubilee reported. “The attacks took place when the targeted Muslims were entering or leaving a mosque, but there were no attacks on the mosque or Muslims as such.”
This year, however, marked the first targeting of Muslims in a mosque, Jubilee reported.
“It should be noted that this attack was reported to be retaliation for their cooperation with the authorities and not necessarily for their faith,” Jubilee reported. “It is instructive that even in perceived random attacks on communities, there is still distinct religious cleansing going on in selection and separation of Christians for elimination.”
Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), anti-aircraft guns and rocket-propelled launchers were among the weapons that suspected Boko Haram gunmen used in a July 14 attack on the predominantly Christian village of Dille in Borno state, Morning Star News reported. The gunmen set three churches ablaze, including one belonging to the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, and reportedly killed dozens of people.
Among the dead is Taiwo Dokun, pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Morning Star News reported. The assailants burned down his house in the Askira-Uba Local Government Area in the northeastern state, but the bodies of Dokun’s wife and three children were not found, their whereabouts reportedly unknown.
In November 2013 the United States designated Boko Haram a Foreign Terrorist Organization. At a June 11 hearing before the Congressional Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey blamed Boko Haram as a major factor in the displacement of 3.3 million people in Nigeria.
Christians make up an estimated 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population of 158.2 million, while Muslims account for 45 percent and live mainly in the north.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press general assignment writer/editor, with reports from Morning Star News.)