Boko Haram has been waging war on Christians in northeast Nigeria for the better part of a decade. They have massacred worshipers in their churches, including 27 murdered on Christmas Day 2012, slaughtered clergy, and targeted religious leaders. Thousands of Christians have been murdered — but somehow, Michelle Obama and all of those good people crying out for the kidnapped schoolgirls can’t find it within themselves to work up much outrage over the persecution of Christians.
The fact that these are girls, at least, makes their plight of international political and media interest. Feminism is an easy fall-back position for the foreign policy/human rights community. For that, the girls and their parents may yet have reason to be grateful. It allows the British Foreign Secretary to tweet that ‘using girls as the spoils of war and the spoils of terrorism is immoral’. But what neither the UK nor the US authorities is prepared to draw attention to is that these girls – all or nearly all of them – are Christians.
Boko Haram might, indeed, abduct Muslim girls from school because it thought they should be back at home, to be covered up, beaten, and to make the soup. But it would only dare to sell Christians into slavery and prostitution. Not only are they Christian. It is their Christianity which caused them to be victims.
These and other abductees were at schools in the Christian enclave of Chibok in Borno State. The region is the scene of systematic Islamist persecution and intimidation. Chibok, itself, was regarded as safe, until Islamists arrived to burn down the market, destroy houses, steal, kill, and abduct at will. Full, credible, detailed accounts are available through the Christian on-line networks.
Yet commentators still seem content to exercise self-censorship. The religious identity of the girls has not been mentioned in the mainstream US or British media.
The words ‘poverty’, ‘corruption’, and ‘incompetence’ figure largely, and with some justice, in explanations of what is dysfunctional in Nigeria. But the word “Christian’ is notable by its absence in explaining what happened in Chibok.
Until recently, the U.S. government failed to call out Boko Haram for its sectarian bloodletting, preferring to pretend that the violence was a local matter and not connected to U.S. interests:
“At the time, the sentiment that was expressed by the administration was this was a local grievance and therefore not a threat to the United States or its interests,” he said. “They were saying al Qaeda was on the run and our argument was contrary to that. It has metastasized and it is actually in many ways a growing threat and this is a stark example of that.”
It’s the height of irony — or hypocrisy — that Hillary Clinton would be leading the charge against Boko Haram now after her State Department failed to even designate them a terrorist group until John Kerry became secretary in 2013.
Christians are being oppressed and murdered all over the world from North Korea, through Indonesia, to the Middle East. It’s the best kept secret in the west, rarely being covered in the press except for religious media. Meanwhile, Western governments condemn Islamophobia while turning a blind eye to the murder of Christian innocents.
Perhaps it’s time to save some of that outrage for those of the Christian faith who find themselves the targets of terrorists, fanatical Muslims, and governments.