The Boko Haram insurgency is often regarded just as a local expression of similar Islamist movements in the Middle East, like Islamic State and Al Qaeda. However, it has roots in northern Nigeria that go deep into the country’s history and is the “tip of the iceberg” of anti-Christian prejudice and discrimination, According to a senior Catholic bishop.
According to a senior Catholic bishop, the Boko Haram sect has its roots in northern Nigeria that go deep into the country’s history and is the “tip of the iceberg” of anti-Christian prejudice and discrimination.
While addressing the audience at the Ã¢â‚¬ËœAid to the Church in NeedÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ conference in New York; Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah said the region had a long history of opposition to Christianity.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Islam had been established in northern Nigeria with the sword and blood, then slavery, subjugation and oppression. The British rule, which sought to pacify and co-opt the northern Fulani ruling class into its loop of power made things worse and led to further discrimination against non-Muslim populations.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Christian missionaries and churches were kept outside the cities, making Christians more vulnerable. The government’s reluctance to allocate land for the building of churches gradually became a serious problem and remains so to this day.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Kukah reiterated that Christians were gaining in confidence because of their increasing economic and political power. But the Christian success story had run up against the sudden emergence of Boko Haram, which specifically targeted Christian churches and institutions.
“Boko Haram, in some respect, is the tip of the iceberg, the extreme manifestation of years of indoctrination hinging on negative propaganda against Christians and Christianity, demonizing their relationship with the West.
“Young Muslims have been fed on a steady diet of exhortations that Islam is superior to any other religion; as the war in Afghanistan and the Danish cartoons, which he said had led to attacks on Christians by Muslim young people.
“Ultimately, the crisis in the name of religion in northern Nigeria is not a crisis over faith but a crisis over power. The challenge is how to create an egalitarian society in which the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and in which ordinary citizens can enjoy their rights without any discrimination.”
The Bishop further explained; Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Church must engage with the Muslim youth of northern Nigeria. It is clear to me that if we create more spaces for young people to interact Ã¢â‚¬â€œ especially at the college level; mutual trust between Christians and Muslims can be built up.Ã¢â‚¬Â
He highlighted some of the processes he had taken in this direction, including ensuring Muslims benefited from a scholarship fund for poor children.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“My biggest dream is to build a boarding school for 1,000 students from all religious and ethnic groups. This will be a platform for creating a new generation of Nigerians who can be weaned off from the hatred and prejudice that produce fear in our society today.
“I believe that when these children grow up together, they will learn to accommodate and accept one another; thus they will be able to make meaningful contributions to society Ã¢â‚¬â€œ acting as citizens of Nigeria and not as religious bigots who have grown up in isolated environments,” Kukah added.