More than 100 members of the Islamic State of West Africa, also known as Boko Haram, recently swarmed northern Adamawa, a state in northeast Nigeria, and set at least five churches ablaze while they opened fire and indiscriminately killed residents, according to Sunday reports.
The violence targeting Christian churches in northern Nigeria has turned that country into "a ticking time bomb," U.S. religious leaders warn.
The U.K.-based group Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust reported that over 1,000 Christians were massacred in Nigeria in 2019. So far this year, the violence has continued unabated.
Interfaith leaders Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Rev. Johnnie Moore, president of The Congress of Christian Leaders and a Wiesenthal Center honoree, returned last week from a Nigerian fact-finding mission and reported some parts of the country might become "the most dangerous place on the planet."
In a joint statement released this week they added, "Does anyone give a damn about the innocents dying every day in West Africa? If so, it's time to show it."
The two religious leaders spent a week in Nigeria and met both Christian and Muslim religious leaders, representatives of non-governmental organizations, and senior government officials. They also talked to more than 50 survivors of attacks by hordes of Muslim militants – especially Boko Haram.
"You, like us, have no doubt heard of the attacks on communities throughout vulnerable parts of Nigeria," their statement began, continuing, "the kidnapping and abuse of young women, the churches that have been burned, the homes that have been razed, and of the million or more children now roaming the streets out-of-school."
"After our journey there, we want the world to know that you haven't heard half of it. The terrorists aim to ethnically cleanse northern Nigeria of its Christians and to kill every Muslim who stands in their way," Cooper and Moore continued.
They warned, without intervention, the region "will be ground zero for the next generation's war on terrorism, and the humanitarian cost of letting these problems fester and multiply in the near-term could result in disaster for much of Western Africa."
Moore and Cooper described the situation as "a five-alarm-fire." They told Nigeria's political leaders "the status quo is unacceptable, and the government must do more to immediately fulfill its fundamental responsibility to protect all of its citizens."
"Urgent action is needed, now," their statement declared. "The United States can begin by appointing a special envoy to the region with the ability to do what needs to be done to address this emergency, beginning with a wide-reaching assessment of the effectiveness of all programs we are funding in the region."
Cooper and Moore said Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faith leaders "must unite in declaring 'enough is enough!'"
Cooper and Moore acknowledged, religious persecution is a worldwide problem and is as old as time – but this outbreak of violence is especially heinous.
"We have rarely encountered a ticking time bomb potentially more perilous to global order and more detrimental to the innocent lives of men, women, and children than what is brewing in this part of Africa," they concluded. "We sincerely wonder, does anyone give a damn about the innocents dying every day in West Africa? If so, it's time to show it."
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