The media has recently reported the abduction of more than 270 school-girls in Nigeria in mid-April. The girls, mostly between 16 and 18 were sitting for a final science exam when they were abducted by terrorists. Some of the girls later managed to escape but some 190 of them are still missing.
What most news reports did mention was that the radical Muslim terrorist organisation, Boko Haram, had claimed responsibility. What they did not mention was that the girls were Christians from a Christian enclave in a Muslim part of Nigeria.
This is rather typical of many news reports that tell us about people being killed and property being damaged in what is usually referred to as “sectarian violence”. It’s only when you do a little probing that you find out that yet again Christians have come under attack.
In Nigeria Boko Haram have been responsible for much violence and cruelty against Christians as they seek to bring Nigeria under Sharia (Muslim) law. A similar group, al-Shabab, in Kenya was responsible for the massacre in a Nairobi shopping mall in September last year. Again, the targets were especially Christians. More than 60 patrons died in that atrocity.
In Pakistan, also in September last year, worshippers left the historic All Saints church in Peshawar with the closing blessing ringing in their ears only to be greeted outside by two suicide bombers who blew apart at least 78 people, which included 34 women and 7 children.
It’s sad when women and children are included in such violence; it’s even sadder that with the Nigerian abductions the targets are now specifically children. That’s a new low for Muslim terrorists. In fact, only a little earlier in Nigeria a boarding school was attacked. Some 50 boys were killed in their beds by having their throats slit. The girls were sent home and told not to return because education was not for girls; they should go and get married.
In Nigeria many of the girls have been “forcibly converted” to Islam and sold into marriage – for as little as $(Aus)12.00. Others have been sold into slavery. This happens not only in Nigeria but also in places like Egypt and Syria. In those instances where the abductors have been brought before the courts the girls are usually intimidated to say that they voluntarily entered into a marriage relationship. Sometimes that happens with girls as young as 12.
Elizabeth Kendal, a religious liberty analyst recently mentioned that world-wide some 700 girls are abducted annually. They are seen as soft targets by terrorists and radical Muslims are usually vehemently opposed to the education of women. Incidentally, I don’t want to suggest that only Christians are persecuted. In places such as Pakistan Hindu girls are also being abducted.
I mention all this for a couple of reasons. Particularly, first, because our church recently participated in a Bible League fundraising event: Bibles for the Persecuted. That so easily becomes a kind of generic issue that leaves us untouched. It’s as we read of Christian boys having their throats cut in bed and of hundreds of girls being abducted that suddenly the persecution of Christians hits home to us in a very tangible way. These are the kinds of families that the Bible League is seeking to support.
I also mention this because increasingly we see Nigerians around town and sometimes they are not treated very well. People ask why we so easily accept people from such different cultural backgrounds and then concern is expressed about the problems that this will create. We need to remember that many of them are precisely the kind of people who have been targeted by militant Muslims such as Boko Haram. We should be delighted to provide for these people an escape from a life of persecution.
Praying for persecuted Christians should not be something that is left just for a few weeks of the year when we do our annual “Bible League Bibles for the Persecuted” thing. We who live in freedom from persecution ought to remember these folk constantly in our prayer.