Boko Haram, officially known as People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad is a militant Jihadist group bent on forcing Sharia Law on the country of Nigeria. Thousands of people have been killed by this group in the last 3-4 years in Nigeria. Many of the victims have been Christians simply practicing their religion.

While we have heard about the conflicts in Syria, Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere on a regular basis through the mainstream media, relatively little time is dedicated to the continual violence in Nigeria. Why is this? The answer is simple: it is Christians who are being killed. Violence in many other areas in the Mideast and in North Africa has been primarily political and indifferent to Christians, yet those are the stories we are seeing daily in the news.

A Brief History of the Boko Haram
The group was organized some time in or before 1995 under the name Shabaab, Muslim Youth Organization. At that time, Mallam Lawal was its leader. Lawal left the group and Mohammed Yusuf took control. Yusuf officially established the group in 2002 in the city of Maiduguri. His goal was to establish Sharia Law in the Borno State in Nigeria. Under the guise of educating children from poor Muslim families from across Nigeria, and providing a mosque for these Muslims, the institution was actually recruiting and training these children to fight as jihadists.

In 2009, the Nigerian government began investigating the group after suspicions arose that they were becoming militant and acquiring weapons. When the government finally arrested several members of the group, Boko Haram became violent and attacked the Nigerian security forces. This event became known as the 2009 Boko Haram Uprising. While most report claim that the violence was political only, there were many people killed because they refused to convert to Islam. All told, including those from both sides in the conflict, over 1000 people are believed to have been killed in the violence during this uprising.  The group’s leader, Yusuf, was killed in this conflict. It seems that after Yusuf’s death, Abubakar Shekau assumed leadership of the group.

A Sample of Recent Boko Haram Attacks

  • On September 7, 2010, about 50 Boko Haram gunmen launched an attack on a prison in the city of Bauchi. 5 people were killed in the violence, 6 injured, and 721 prisoners escaped – 150 or so belonging to Boko Haram.
  • On New Year’s Eve, 2010, Boko Haram bombed a military barracks in Abuja, Nigeria, killing 5 people including a pregnant woman and her unborn child. All of the dead were civilians.
  • Another jailbreak was carried out on April 22, 2011 freeing 14 prisoners.
  • On the 29th of May, 2011 7 separate bombs were detonated across northern Nigeria, killing 15 and injuring 55. All were attributed to Boko Haram.
  • As many as 6 people were killed on June 16, 2011 when a suicide bomber drove a car bomb into Police headquarters in the city of Abuja.
  • 10 days later, a bombing was carried out on a beer garden in Maiduguri, killing 25 and injuring around 30.
  • On July 10, 2011, a member of Boko Haram threw a bomb into the All Christian Fellowship Mission Church in Suleja, Nigeria.
  • On November 4, 2011 between 100 and 150 people were killed in coordinated attacks on Police stations, 6 Churches, Mosques and banks by Boko Haram in the city of Damaturu. These attacks involved car bombings, shootings, and suicide bombings.
  • On Christmas Day, 2011, at least 41 Christians were killed and more than 57 injured in coordinated attacks in 4 towns in north and Central Nigeria. 37 of the dead and more than 50 of the injured were Catholics attending Christmas Mass at St. Theresa Catholic Church in the town of Madalla.
  • On January 2, 2012, Boko Haram issued an ultimatum, giving Christians 3 days to leave the northern part of Nigeria or they will be attacked.
  • On January 6th, militants armed with automatic weapons stormed a town hall in Mubi where Christians were assembled to mourn 3 of their own that were killed the previous day. At least 18 were killed in the second attack. Another ambush left 8 more Christians dead in Yola. 6 People were killed during a church service in Gombi and a Christian couple was gunned down in Maiduguri.
  • On January 20, 185 people including 150 civilians were killed in the city of Kano. Security forces announced that they had found 10 unexploded car bombs and nearly 300 smaller bombs around the city.
  • On June 17, 2012, the group conducted the suicide bombings of three churches in the northern Nigerian state of Kaduna, killing more than 50 people.
  • Also on June 17, 130 bodies were found in Plateau State. It is presumed they were killed by Boko Haram members
  • In August 2012, Boko Haram opened fire inside an evangelical church during a service in the northern State of Kogi, killing 19

To make matters worse, this group has affiliated with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and the US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence urged the Obama Administration and U.S. intelligence community in November 2011 to focus on Boko Haram as a potential threat to United States territory.

In light of all of this, how much did you know about Boko Haram before this? Not much? The media is dropping the ball on this. Our Christian brothers and sisters in Nigeria are faced with the very real threat to their lives just for stepping into a Church or trying to bury their dead. We need to pray for them urgently.