Did You Know...Boko Haram in Nigeria

....that Boko Haram has attacked more than 40 churches since 2012?

Boko Haram, a Hausa-language name meaning “western education is a sin,” is an Islamic sect that sees the federal and northern state governments, as well as political and religious elites, as morally corrupt. Boko Haram rejects the west and the secular state and seeks the universal implementation of “pure” sharia law to resolve the ills facing northern Nigerian Muslims. While sharia already is applied in the 12 northern Nigeria states, the organization believes that politicians have corrupted it for their own gain.

Boko Haram targets include churches, individual Christians, persons engaged in “unIslamic” activities, Muslim critics, northern elders, schools, police stations, government buildings, newspapers, and banks. International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda stated in November 2012 that there is a “reasonable basis” to believe that Boko Haram has committed crimes against humanity in Nigeria.

Boko Haram has attacked churches on Christmas Eve or Christmas day three years in a row from 2010 to 2012, initiating these attacksin northern cities with a history of sectarian violence in an effort to further destabilize Nigeria. It also has killed individual Christians and in January 2012 called on Christians to leave northern Nigeria. Boko Haram attacked a Christian area of Kano on July 30, killing 45 and damaging churches, and prior to that date, had burned down several churches after the Nigerian government on May 14 declared a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states. In addition to its bombings and burnings at, and shootings of, churches, Boko Haram has attacked beer parlors, poker players, and soccer viewing centers.

Rather than containing Boko Haram, the government’s excessive use of force has exacerbated the problem. Hundreds of Muslims were jailed without charge for being suspected Boko Haram members, with trial dates yet to be determined. The Nigerian government attempted three times in 2012 to enter into peace negotiations with the group, which failed when Boko Haram continued to undertake acts of violence.

Boko Haram started in 2002 in Yobe and Borno states and is based in Maiduguri. Despite the extrajudicial killing of its former leader and the arrests in 2009 of hundreds of followers (many of whom were released during prison breaks), Boko Haram has grown in numbers in the past two years with the addition of scores of economically and politically marginalized northerners. For more information, please see USCIRF’s 2013 Annual Report chapter on Nigeria .