It is three years now since Boko Haram declared a caliphate in the areas of Nigeria it controlled. One eyewitness recently described to me how in the years before the caliphate was proclaimed several Afghans appeared in the area of Maiduguri. Over the ensuing months more and more foreigners appeared – from Somalia, Mali and also Arabs. They began to train at night and recruit young locals. “When the caliphate came” is how Nigeria’s internally displaced persons (IDPs) often begin their stories. When the caliphate came, the names of Christians were already on a list. Some were tipped off and most managed to get out in time. Hundreds who did not were slaughtered.Share
The rest of the Christian community walked in a great exodus across the mountainous borders, into Cameroon and back around into safer areas of Nigeria. More than one and a half million people from one state alone – Borno – are now displaced from their homes, and you can meet them at IDP camps across the country.
Boko Haram’s seizure of 300 Chibok schoolgirls in 2014 was one of the few times that the plight of Nigeria’s Christians has broken through to international headlines. The government continues to maintain that it is doing everything possible to solve the plight of the abducted girls. But whether through complicity, corruption, incompetence or all these, the girls remain missing.
Stories of their conversion to Islam and forced marriages filter back. But for the Christians of Nigeria the Chibok case raises daily questions. Not least because what happened in 2014 is merely a large-scale version of something that occurs all the time. (Read more.)