Boko Haram: 7 Things You Should Know

July 2, 2015

nigeria

They’ve captured over 200 schoolgirls, kidnapped the wife of Nigeria’s prime minister, and killed thousands of others in violent attacks.  Boko Haram’s reputation is notorious but few fully understand who they are and what motivates their actions.  Here are seven things you should know:

1. THEIR NAME TRANSLATES, “WESTERN EDUCATION IS FORBIDDEN.”

Boko Haram strongly opposes the westernization of Nigeria and other parts of Africa.  They are particularly concerned with the western education system.  The group’s founder, Mohammed Yusuf, even once espoused that the world is flat.  This view on education was a key motivator in the 2014 attack on the Chibok boarding school in Borno where they kidnapped 274 girls, many of whom remain missing today.

2. MANY BOKO HARAM FIGHTERS ARE NOT NECESSARILY RELIGIOUS MILITANTS.

While the group has political ambitions to establish a Nigerian Islamic state, Yusuf initially recruited followers from unemployed young people by denouncing income inequality and governmental wrongdoing.  By doing this, he was able to galvanize support from those frustrated by poverty and corruption in the region.

3. THE GROUP WAS RELATIVELY PEACEFUL AT FIRST.

Boko Haram was initially established in 2002 but didn’t become notoriously violent until 2009.  While a Nigerian Islamic state has always been the group’s aim, it initially began as a religious complex and school.  Through the years, it became increasingly withdrawn from society and concerning to regional governments.  In 2009, the arrests of nine Boko Haram officials and clashes with police led to nearly 700 fatalities.  Yusuf was among those arrested and died while in custody.  In September 2010, the group staged a mass prison break of over 100 fighters and 600 other prisoners, only fueling the violence.

4. THEY’VE BECOME A GROWING REGIONAL THREAT.

Boko Haram is largely concentrated in Northern Nigeria but their activities are now spilling into neighboring countries.  They also recently praised ISIS and declared them as an ally in their fight.  Recently, Chad, Cameroon, and Nigeria banded together with vigilantes and hunters to combat the group’s growing influence.

5. THEY’RE FUNDED BY FURTHER CRIMINAL OPERATIONS.

Boko Haram receives the bulk of its funding by kidnapping and ransom schemes, drug trafficking, and private donations from individuals sympathetic to their cause.  Some analysts have even found credible connections between the group and Latin American drug cartels.

6. THE DAMAGE THEY’VE INFLICTED IS STAGGERING.

Boko Haram now has 7,000-10,000 active fighters.  Since 2009, they have murdered over 13,000 civilians, 10,000 of which were killed within the last year.  An additional 1.5 million people have been displaced by the violence.

7. YOU CAN DO SOMETHING.

It is easy to look at a crisis as staggering as that of Boko Haram and throw our hands up in disbelief and helplessness.  But things can be done.

Pray.  Christians in Nigeria are frequently targeted by Boko Haram.  Pray for their safety and that the Gospel will spread.  Likewise, pray for Boko Haram fighters, that they will enter into a relationship with Christ.

Go.  Refugees fleeing the violence are landing in countries all over the world.  The United Nations recently reported that the world is now experiencing the largest refugee population in history.  They are landing in Europe, the Middle East, and other parts of Africa.  e3 Partners is launching expeditions into these regions in an effort to serve them and introduce them to Jesus.  Click here to learn more.

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