By BosNewsLife Africa Service
WASHINGTON/ABUJA (BosNewsLife)– An umbrella organization of US-based Baptist churches have urged the United States government to designate Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram as “a terrorist group” and to support religious minorities in the Middle East, North Africa and South-Central Asia.
That designation would allow more funding and policy initiatives towards combating Boko Haram and related groups.
The distributed appeal by the Progressive National Baptist Convention (PNBC), seen by BosNewsLife Saturday, August 10, came just days after suspected Boko Haram fighters opened fire at an evangelical church in central Nigeria killing at least 19 people before Bible study began and, in a separate attack, shot and killed a colleague of a Nigerian evangelist and BosNewsLife stringer.
Most died Tuesday, August 7, at the Deeper Life evangelical church in Otite, quiet neighborhood on the outskirts of the city of Okene, 250 kilometers (155 miles) southwest of Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.
Seperately, Evangelist Ali Samari, 57, was killed after he returned from work, said Paul Jongas, himself an evangelist who also reports for BosNewsLife from the region.
SHOT AND KILLED
“My fellow evangelist Ali Samari of Good News Church was killed [Tuesday, August 7] at his resident house in Mafoni [neighborhood] in in Maiduguri metropolis” in the country’s north-eastern Borno State, he told BosNewsLife.
At least two gunmen were involved in the attack, Christians said.
The PNBC resolution, adopted at its 51st Annual Session, said that since its inception in 2002, Boko Haram has “sought the elimination of Christianity and the Nigerian Federal state and its replacement with a Shari’a state governed by an extremist orthodoxy defined by its leader, Mohammed Yusuf.”
“Boko Haram currently conducts hit and run drive-by murders of government officials, imams, traditional rulers and individuals deemed to have betrayed or oppose it…The group has also given Christians, including those indigenous to the north and center, the alternative of conversion or death and has mounted massive attacks on Christian suburbs and homes, and gun and bomb attacks on church services,” the PNBC noted.
Boko Haram, which means ‘Western Education is a Sin’, aims to establish a Muslim state and has threatened to expel Christians from especially northern areas.
TRYING EASING TENSIONS
In an effort to ease religious tensions, the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) denomination donated food items this week to six mosques in the town of Tudun Nupawa in north central Kaduna State, Christians said.
Organizers said the move was aimed at assisting less privileged families with their post-Ramadan feasts,following a period of fasting.
The handover of the Ramadan gift, which included bags of sugar, maize, millet and beans, occurred at the residence of the local traditional ruler Alhaji Shuai’b Balarbe, the Sarkin Dutse, Tudun Nupawa, added advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), which applauded the initiative.
In a statement, the PNBC also said it adopted a resolution urging the US government to appoint a special envoy at the State Department focusing on religious minorities in the Middle East, North Africa and South-Central Asia.
The group stressed the plight of Christians in countries such as Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, including Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who awaits possible execution in an Iranian prison on charges of “apostasy”, or abandoning Islam.
CONFLICT AND POLITICS
“Conflict and political instability has had a negative impact on religious minorities in the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan and Afghanistan with acts of persecution increasing and high levels of religious minorities fleeing these countries,” the PNBC explained.
It urged Washington to “actively promote religious freedom as a fundamental part of its policy in its relations with the countries of the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan and Afghanistan, to ensure that aid and political cooperation is conditioned on the respective governments taking concrete steps to protect religious minorities and uphold religious freedom in their countries.”
CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said his group “welcomes the PNBC’s recommendations.”
A “special envoy at the State Department would help to coordinate efforts” to support religious minorities in the regions where they are vulnerable, he added.
“We also support calls for Boko Haram to be designated as a terrorist organization, a move that would release much needed funding and support to combat the threat that this group poses to both within Nigeria and beyond her borders.”