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The church and Boko Haram’s crossfire

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In times of crises, comfort zone increasingly shrinks until they become outrightly untenable.

For over a decade now, Nigerians have watched in horror as Boko Haram`s rabid onslaughts against the country have taken new and terrifying turns. The means and methods of slaughter and destruction of properties and livelihoods have been reinvented and deployed with new heights reached. Everyone bar has been affected in one-way or another, whether directly or indirectly. The Church in Nigeria has been worse hit in many ways.

Boko Haram which has paradoxically combined its impatience with singling out particular groups with its predilection for targeting Christians has laid waste countless communities that are predominantly Christian. Christian livelihood and properties have been destroyed and churches razed to the ground. Adherents of the Christian faith have also been abducted and subjected to unspeakable horrors for professing the Christian faith.

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It is safe to say that while Boko Haram considers all Nigerians its enemies, it considers Nigerian Christians its arch enemies. Initially, Boko Haram sought to fight its utterly senseless war along religious lines with the hope of effectively pitting Christians against Muslims and vice versa. However, relentless withering denunciations of its ways from many of the Muslims it sought to represent has turned the tide of Muslim sympathy against it and changed the narrative. Today, Boko Haram whets its bloody appetite with whatever blood is available, Christian or Muslim.

In the face of this unprecedented fury against humanity, religion and common sense, Nigerian Christians wake up everyday to an expanding dilemma about how to respond. The handy response would be to fight fire with fire and to devise the means of cunningly reinventing the darkness that hate foists until nothing can be seen or felt by the need to retaliate and spill blood for blood. However, for Christians in Nigeria and their leaders this approach which would match Boko Haram`s ruthless methods would strike the very heart of the gospel Christianity so loudly and remorseless propagates.

Christian leaders in Nigeria are also caught up in this dilemma. There have been protests, appeals, unsparing homilies and a relentless campaign to assist those caught in the crossfire, however, with each passing day, it looks like a dialogue with the deaf is ongoing.

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Within the ranks of the faithful, there is a simmering divergence of opinion about how to tackle Boko Haram. Ordinary and mostly poor church goers have seen their lives and livelihoods torn apart with relentless fury. Many have lost family and have had to flee from their ancestral lands. Things have never looked bleaker and with each passing day, the darkness that Boko Haram is wrestles with the light that the gospel ignites in every heart that is opened to it.

The battle is between light and darkness and under such monumental circumstances, it is normal that there is a lot of pain, agony, uncertainty and confusion within the ranks of Christians. In all these, the Nigerian government has had its own roles to play. The roles have been ostensibly difficult and complicated. The government has on many occasions sent out the unfortunate message that it is hard of hearing on matters that affect the security and well-being of Nigerians.

As the slaughter has raged on without ceasing, the government has looked increasingly bewildered and overwhelmed. There is no doubt that majority of Nigerians feel the government can do and should be doing more. Christians fight with a variety of arms, none of which can even closely resemble the atrocious wickedness of Boko Haram and its many enablers. The battle is not just to render western education extinct but also to rip the soul out of Christianity. Christians must unite and respond to the onslaught with faith and steadfastness. For in the face of the savagery, Nigeria and its Christians must always identify who their common enemy is. Boko Haram is that enemy.

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