Jubilee Campaign At the UN

Jubilee Campaign Presents the Reality of Anti-Christian Violence in Nigeria

This week the United Nations Human Rights Council heard the truth on the killing of Christians in Nigeria.  The hidden causes and terrifying implications of the militant, Islamic-driven violence were laid open for the perusal of the international community. On Tuesday, Ann Buwalda pled with international community to recognize the pernicious effects of impunity, using the massive escalation in violence

“Freedom of religion or belief does not merely mean that governments do not detain or execute people on account of their belief, but that the governments ensure that religiously motivated murder is not permitted and that incitement draws its proper prosecutorial response,” she proclaimed.

On Wednesday, Jubilee Campaign showed a new clip from Fred Williams entitled “The Price of Impunity.” The wails of the bereaved women of Dogo Nahawa, where almost 500 people were massacred two years ago today, provided a chilling soundtrack to image upon image of butchered children and decapitated pastors, with imagery as recent as December 10, 2011.

The testimony of Prof. Yakubu Joseph provided a brilliant analysis of the situation of northern Christians. With his expertise as a researcher at the Institute for International Religious Freedom, Prof. Joseph expertly dissected the current anti-Christian climate in its religious, social, and political dimensions and noted the difference between legal and actual protection. Despite the ratification of numerous international human rights treaties and Constitutional language promising religious freedom, the reality faced by Nigeria’s northern Christians is anything but free.

Barrister Edward Pwajok, the Attorney General of Plateau State presented his case for empowering the States to arrest and investigate the crimes they are theoretically responsible for prosecuting under Nigeria’s current system. All existing security forces fall directly under Presidential authority. Unfortunately, the corrupt and often partisan nature of the centralized security forces sabotages sub-national justice procedures undermining the freedoms enshrined in Nigeria’s Constitution.

Jubilee Campaign researcher Gregory Treat presented the report “Recognizing the Religious Underpinning of Violence In Northern Nigeria” based on Jubilee Campaign’s recent situation assessment trip to Nigeria in the first half of February. Unfortunately, far too much of the international community spends its time denying the reality of the religious element in Nigeria’s northern conflict choosing instead to arbitrarily focus on “cross cultural frustration over government corruption” as the U.S. Department of State did in a recent Washington Times article. By contrast Mr. Treat asserted that: “Until the international community recognizes the religious element in this conflict they will continue to be blindsided by massive escalations in violence like what we are seeing now.”

The violence has continued unabated since January and shows no signs of ending. An ultimatum issued by a Boko Haram spokesman in early January ordered all Christians to leave the north or face attacks. Over 300 people died in the month of January alone as Boko Haram attempted to fulfill their promise, a 7-fold increase in killings over all of last year. This past Sunday March 4, Boko Haram declared “war on Christians.” Boko Haram has never broken their word when they promise to deliver violence despite the opinions of outside observers who continue to cast doubts on Boko Haram’s organization and capacity.

Jubilee Campaign called on the Special Rapportuer on Freedom of Religion or Belief to request an invitation for a country visit to Nigeria and urged the Government of Nigeria to grant that request and respond to the many communications they have ignored on this issue over the past several years. We are encouraged by the dedication of the Special Rapportuer as he continues to hold Nigeria accountable, but more engagement from both the UN and the international community at large is necessary to prevent this situation from spiraling out of control. The failure to prosecute greatly expands the number of societal actors willing to commit violence in the name of Islam and until that issue is dealt with the violence will continue. Jubilee Campaign pleads with the international community to recognize and respond to this crisis before it grows to genocidal proportions.

 

Prayers for Nigeria Day 10

Dear Friends

Today I leave Nigeria. I’m glad that I was able to come and see first hand what I have read and studied for over a year now. This country is a great country in many ways and its people are free people. I’m so glad for all of the kindness that people showed me and the outright courage that it took sit down and talk with me.

As I prepare to leave I chuckle remembering how different the manners of people in the North are. I met a convert who bowed deeply to me and I did not make a big deal of it because of the cultural difference. But hearing that man’s story, knowing what he has given up, what he lost for the sake of Christ. I should have bowed to him, I should have honored him. I know he didn’t see it that way but I wish that I could have given him the honor that he was due.

Its a funny thing going on a human rights trip. I met with leaders of the Sayawa people from a place called Tafawa Balewa, its a Christian enclave in the south of the Muslim dominated Bauchi State. After hearing the discrimination and deprivation that they have suffered, I told them that a small human rights NGO like Jubilee Campaign could not solve their problem. But I promised them that we would never forget them.

I made that promise as a member of a human rights organization which advocates for ethnic and religious minorities. But I was the one who made the promise. Even if circumstances change and I have to leave Jubilee Campaign, I will never forget them. I will never forget their plight, their courage in the face of overwhelming odds, their commitment to Christ against all the world has thrown at them.

Part of honor is knowing that sometimes obligations come upon you suddenly, without notice. Sometime honor may require you to give more than you ever dreamed you would need to. I can already feel the weight of new obligations settling on me, and I know that I will need help to bear them.

Let us pray.

Lord I thank you for the success of this trip. Though there were challenges and confusion, You worked things out to give us an amazingly broad and effective trip.

I thank you for the kindness of those who opened their homes to me. I thank you for the boldness with which pastors and ordinary Christians told me of the trials that they had suffered.

Lord as I go back to comfortable safe America, I pray that you would be with them. Lord I pray that no harm would come to them as a result of them meeting with me. Lord I pray for Nigeria, for the endemic corruption that holds them down, but the indomitable spirit that drives them up up and on. I thank you for the life and joy that is in them. Lord I praise you for the freedom that you have given them. It is beautiful.

Lord I pray for those in the North. I pray that you would protect the Christians from harm. I pray that the Muslims would realize that Boko Haram brings nothing but death. I pray for the security forces that have already realized that. Lord I pray that you would enable the police and the military to do their jobs with integrity.

Lord I pray that key people in the U.S. State Department and the U.N. would come to their senses and realize that this is not some local ethnic problem. This is religious extremism and it has grown strong enough to threaten all of Nigeria.

Lord I pray that Nigeria would not fall into chaos, or under the hand of a brutal oppressive regime like Iran. Let there be peace, true peace, not the uneasy tension which hovers over so many of the places that I visited.

Lord I pray for travel mercies as I leave this place and return to my own country. But Lord I pray that you would keep the memories fresh. Let me never forget the truth of what I have seen. I pray that you would make me able to keep the promises I have made.

In Jesus Name

Amen.

Prayers for Nigeria Day 9

Dear Friends

Today we were able to visit the northern state of Kano and meet with some of the Christians there. Kano is of particular interest to the Jubilee Campaign, because the Boko Haram attacks were targeted attacks on government buildings which killed far more Muslims than Christians. This was the most dangerous part of our trip by far and we are grateful that God kept us safe throughout it.

Due to this bloodshed, the eyes of some of the leaders of Kano have been opened to the reality that Boko Haram will not stop until their ideology is triumphant. As we are well aware that ideology dictates the death of Christians, but it also requires the vast majority of Nigeria’s Muslims to compromise their convictions or face death as well. We were even encouraged to hear of Muslim leaders who have explicitly and publicly condemned the Boko Haram. Unfortunately, those Muslims who do proclaim their opposition to the Boko Haram are quickly killed or forced to flee the area, silencing their voices.

Some other exciting things happened to us in Kano, but I’ll leave that for another day.

Lord,

I thank you for the Christians that endure in the far north and I pray that you will keep them safe in this lethal new world that they find themselves in.

Lord I thank you that the evil of Boko Haram has finally been recognized by some leaders of the Muslim community in Kano, but we grieve for the souls whose fate is now beyond the reach of the Gospel. Lord I pray for discernment for your pastors in the North, they desperately need wisdom in knowing who to trust. Lord unless people can build trust then there will never be peace in the north, but if they give their trust to the wrong people then the violence will only increase.

Lord I pray that you would preserve the Muslims who recognize that Boko Haram is evil. Lord I pray that even those Muslims who desire Nigeria to be an Islamic nation will recognize that the terrorism of Boko Haram is destruction which begets destruction and it cannot build anything. I pray that the Muslims would see that unless they unite against these terrorists that there will be no more Nigeria.

Lord I pray for those of your people who have been humiliated by the northern Muslims until they are shamed and weak in their own eyes. I pray that you would strengthen their hearts and allow them to lift their heads up high. And I pray that their unashamed passion for Christ will bring a great harvest for the Kingdom.

Lord preserve your people

Amen.

Prayers for Nigeria Day 8

I saw something that I must mention, and it requires me to give an explanation. Due to the increasing (and very dangerous) trend of religious segregation in the country, Muslim areas are increasingly Muslim, while Christian areas are increasingly Christian. The clearest sign that you are entering a predominantly Muslim area is in the clothing, particularly that of the women.

I knew that and expected it, but what I did not expect was my own personal reaction to the sight. One of my chief hobbies is people-watching, and I have rarely enjoyed it as much as I have enjoyed it in Nigeria. The people are loud, boisterous full of life and laughter. Not so in the Muslim areas.

The women there walk with downcast eyes, furtively shuffling from place to place. Frowns of worry crease faces that have lost the contours of smiling. Even through the stifling veil of the hijab you can see fear in their stance and carriage. Every time that we cross into a Muslim dominant area I notice this shift on a visceral level.

Above all the things that I have learned in this trip is that Nigerians are a free people. They hold their heads high and stand up straight. It grieves me to see these women so broken.

All that was just background. Now let me tell you what sight compelled me to post this. As we were passing through a muslim section of town I my attention was drawn to 7 Muslim schoolgirls, in matching hijabs of pale Nigerian green preparing to cross the street.

One girl in particular caught my eye. She couldn’t have been more than 9 or 10 years old, but she was leading the group. She grasped her sisters hands, holding back one girl who tried to step out into the street early and shouting encouragement to her sisters as she prepared them to cross the street.

All of this happened in perhaps 4 or 5 seconds as we made a turn and then the flow of traffic took us along. As I looked at her face, at the life flashing in it, I suddenly realized that this girl was just like the Christian schoolgirls, that we had visited earlier in the day. She had the same life, the same passion, the same core of freedom. Immediately following the first recognition came the second, that all those women that I saw so downcast and fearful, they weren’t born that way. No, they were made to be that way. They had been broken.

I wondered what will happen to that girl’s spirit, to the life in her eyes and the smile on her face, when she grows up in a Muslim world, surrounded by a culture that denies her the right to her own self. What will happen to the laughter on her lips in ten years or so when she marries a Muslim husband and is broken to his will?

I mentioned this line of thought to my traveling companion, and he looked at me with a curious combination of sympathy for my ignorance and distaste for the truth that I was not seeing. In ten years? he said. Three or four, max. She will be a child bride bearing child after child, growing old before her time.

What response to that can there be but prayer?

Oh Lord, I pray for that Muslim schoolgirl. I pray that by your mercy and grace that you would preserve the joy in heart. Lord give her enough time to learn and grow up.

Lord I have no patience for feminists in the States, their irrational sense of entitlement garners no sympathy from me. But oh God my heart breaks for those girls who really are forced into lives they would never choose for themselves. Whose value is measured in the sons they bear and the amount of work they can do in a day. Like beasts of burden their minds are left to rot in darkness and their hearts grow cold.

Oh God I praise you for the transformation, for the converts that have come and are coming among the women of the Muslim world. Lord your truth is right, your word makes us to protect the weak, not break them to our will. Oh Lord we know that true submission to God means that in humility we cannot force someone to give God their heart.

Lord I pray that you would protect us in the days ahead as we travel to even more exciting places.

Amen

Prayers For Nigeria Day 7

Dear Friends

I left the States a week ago today. I have not yet spent a full week in Nigeria, as the trip itself consumed all of Monday night and most of Tuesday but it has been seven days since I slept at home. Since I arrived, it has been like riding a whirlwind. Almost everyday we have spent more than three hours in the car, traveling from city to city.

This morning we were able to travel with Congresswoman Martha Bodunrin, who took us to the scene of the 2010 Dogo Nahawa Massacre which killed at least 500 people.

As a side note, Congresswoman Martha Bodunrin is a faithful and exemplary representative of her constituents. When notified of the attack, she immediately flew from the capitol of Nigeria to Jos, but by the time she arrived the Massacre had already taken place. She was only able to witness the awful aftermath of the attack.

Even now, 2 years after the Massacre, the scene haunted the Congresswoman, and she was able to recall casualties in gruesome detail, without any prompting from the locals. We were unable to meet with the pastor, but I talked to several women who had lost their husbands to this violence.

Yet through the lingering horror God’s grace shown a beautiful ray of hope. One of the women gave birth to a child on the day of the massacre. In another place and culture such a child might have been hated as a reminder of the grief and loss. But if I have learned anything about Nigerian it is that they treasure and protect their children. This child was loved God’s constant reminder that there is beauty and life and joy, despite the agony of this dark world. It was a good reminder for me as well.

Lord

I thank you for the gift of life. For reminding me that your grace triumphs over adversity. That all the lies and all the hate and all the violence that comes against your people cannot quench your love and does not shake your faithfulness.

Lord thank you for signs. Thank you for that precious promise child, growing up with the all the love that the wounded community can muster. Lord I pray that you would strengthen that village. Let it grow strong and bright once again. Let that child grow up in a place where hope shines brightly.

Lord I thank You for Christians who have the humility to recognize where they are most needed and best applied. Lord I thank you for PhDs who are willing to teach children their ABCs because that is where they are needed most in the community that You have placed them. Lord I thank you for generosity of Christians to give and the stewardship of Christians to see that gifts are well used. And Lord God I praise You for appointing me to be there as a witness to see Your handiwork. I marvel a pattern that is so much bigger than any one person or organization.

Lord I praise you for the sense of “place” that you have given to Nigerians, the recognition of the ties to the land and the sense of belonging. Lord I know that that sense of place will only be finally fulfilled and justified in heaven, but as I watch these Nigerians I think that many of us in America have forgotten what we should long for!

Lord I pray that you would give me wisdom as I work. Thankfully I know that there is no solution in my hands and I am not called to save Nigeria. But Lord as I see these people in the light of faith and grow to love them, I desperately want to help them. To build up based on a strong foundation, not tear down or worse, build something that must be torn down because it does more harm.

Lord smarter people than I have failed, caught in cultural currents and internal politics that they were unprepared to face. I do not pretend to be better than they. I cannot outsmart all the players, I cannot see all the angles and manipulate everyone. And even if I could, what would it profit?

Lord I ask that you would make me your instrument, that you would use me and this trip as one small part of the work your are doing in Nigeria. Clear the way, and make the way clear before me so that I might not stumble.

Lord preserve Your people.

Amen.