The above image shows the map of Nigeria, most of it red, and bordering countries also in danger of Boko Haram. The red zones are where the militants have attacked.
I write this on October 2nd, 2016, Sunday evening, 5:16 PM: I check the US Census website, and it says there are over 7.3 billion people in the world. China has the world’s highest population, with over a billion; after India, United States ranks number 3, with over 300 million; and Nigeria is number 7, with 186, 053, 386 people. Honing in on Nigeria, imagine 75,000 children dying this year alone. Ok, that’s less than 0.1% of the Nigerian population, someone might reason. 1 in every 2,481 people. But that many deaths in one year make an enormous loss. The NBC article reporting the news claims it is so bad, that in some areas, malnutrition is killing up to 50 percent of the children. 1 in every 2 children. 1 in 2! Can you imagine a famine hitting so hard?
Food is scarce in areas where Boko Haram, a jihadist group, attack. Villages are raided, homes are burned, and citizens are forced out of cities. Families, left homeless, find it nearly impossible to get food, clothing, and shelter in their situation. Breitbart reports that women and girls have so little, they sell their bodies for sex, to get the money they need to survive. It’s very dire, and the famine is only the beginning of the horror.
Boko Haram started attacking Nigeria in 2003. Since then, they have also pushed into Cameroon in search for food and to conquer it, and have attacked surrounding regions, possibly in retaliation of the governments trying to stop them. As a Christian, I say we need to pray, but more than that; we need to find ways to donate our time, money, and any kind of active participation, because the problem is so deep that it will take an act of God to turn things around. I’m called to be salt for the Earth, so dare I waste any time being like God for the desperate and needy?
First, let’s talk about who the Boko Haram are, and become educated on what they do and how they act. This will help us connect with the victims, and pray understanding prayers. After that, I will give resources to how you can help.
Profile of Boko Haram
Who are they? The name they prefer to be known as is “Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād”, which in English is “Group of the People of Sunnah for Preaching and Jihad”. Their main goal is to prohibit Western education and establish a controlled Islamic State within the region they reside. Recently, they became affiliated with ISIS/ISIL.
Where do they reside? Islands in Lake Chad, shown on the map as the center spot of water, and they also are known to reside in the Sambisa Forest, roughly 200 miles southwest of the lake. They also occupy towns which they get by raiding and forcing residents out.
What areas do they attack? Mainly Nigeria, also Cameroon, and recently, Chad, Niger, Benin
What kind of military equipment do they use? Motorbikes, guns, rocket propelled grenades, explosives, blades
Who is the current leader? Abubakar Shekau, and Abu Musab al-Barnawi (recognized by ISIS)
What are their crimes? Attacking police, abducting boys and girls, robbing banks, raiding towns, resisting authorities, exploding buildings, practicing suicide bombing (using female captives), selling women as sex slaves, burning children alive, bombing churches, murdering people at mosques
Do they pose a threat to the rest of the world? Not currently
How You Can Help
There are many ways you can help: raise awareness on social media, raise funds, and donate money to name a few, not to mention volunteer and pray.
- Watch and share a video on your favorite social media site.
- Read Zara’s story. She is a young woman who was abducted by the Boko Haram, and made to choose between marriage or slavery. She expresses the struggles a woman goes through after returning home, and how she still wishes to see her husband, despite who he is.
- Stop and appreciate this Flickr album that Christian Aid posted, showing a community of Muslims and Christians meeting together once a month to negotiate matters peaceably. If I understand correctly, from sources I’ve read, the Quran permits Muslims to do acts of violence in order to further their God’s (Allah’s) reign. As a Christian, however, I feel comforted some Muslims choose a peaceful way of life. I wish to thank them for their goodwill, for whatever reason, which motivates them to be at peace.
- Start real-life discussions with your friends about Nigeria’s suffering, or at least you can try. Sometimes, these subjects are taboo, but people may care, even in their silence. Talk about it more than once, but when it feels appropriate.
- Oxfam America lets you use your talents to raise funds. For example, if you are a musician, you can sign up to donate half of your profits to help people in famines (Nigerians and others); if you like hosting parties, you can host a Hunger Banquet at your campus or community. But then, if you would prefer to donate money yourself, directly for the victims of Boko Haram, make sure to go here to their action page.
- Doctors Without Borders is another charity providing medical aid to those in Nigeria. You can see some of the workers talking about the situation in this video.
My Prayer for the Victims
Please pray with me:
Dear Heavenly Father,
You are God. I cannot doubt your knowledge and expertise on how to govern the earth. Yet I have no words to match the degree to which people suffer. Today, I pray for the victims of Boko Haram, particularly in Nigeria. Hundreds of girls have been taken captive. Some raped, some held captive, some sent to their deaths. Their lives will never be the same. Boys suffer, too. Many are influenced to join the ranks into violence, while others are murdered. Men and women of faith, both Muslims and Christians, are killed in their houses of worship. They pray with hopes for healing and safety, but instead, receive injuries and death. Lord, how can I process all this in one prayer? I must pray continually, each time, focusing on a different problem. I know you will hear me, and will utilize my prayer in the best possible way.
My heart breaks especially for Zara, the woman taken captive. She’s safe now, but Lord, she still finds herself wanting to return to the forest where her captives were, because the judgment she faces for being “a criminal” or at least the wife of one is too great. Surely you have compassion for her. You know she didn’t ask to have this life. She wanted a successful, happy life. Why was she given such a heavy burden? And can you reach out to her the same now, even though she converted to Muslim, and is no longer Christian? Help me, Father, don’t let me doubt Jesus; allow him to penetrate the lies with his holy arrows of light and pierce hearts with truth. The Bible says he is the way, the truth, and the life. I believe it is infallible. …Can Zara come to know his comforting love? I humbly ask.
Be with her and the other girls who are abducted. Give them peace and help them find your light. Don’t make them search too hard, God. Please, I beg. They need the hands of Jesus, the hands that kindly reached for Peter as Peter doubted he could walk on water, the hands that allowed Thomas to search for the holes which proved he was the savior, the hands that held the little children when Jesus said, “Don’t turn them away. Let them come to me.” The girls and boys who are victims of Boko Haram need that kind of love.
Also send compassionate workers to the front lines to distribute food and supplies to the families living in poverty. Take care of the needy. Prick the hearts of Christians to do the work they’re called to do. Otherwise, why are we here on this earth… but to do good?
In Jesus name I pray,