The Dangers of Being an African Christian – Nigeria, Sudan, Uganda

Although they tend to be much more conservative than American or European Christians, African Christians face difficulties of a much more terrifying sort.

In Nigeria, the Islamist terrorist organization Boko Haram has been escalating its violence in recent months. Violence between Muslims and Christians has been a regular occurrence over the past few years, and things don’t seem to be getting any better. Christianity Today reports:

Church leaders in Nigeria are sharply divided over how to react to a surge in violent attacks against Christians and churches in the country’s Muslim-majority north.

Hundreds of Christians have been killed and churches burnt in regular attacks launched this year by Fulani herdsmen in Jos and members of the Boko Haram terrorist sect in Kaduna, Borno, and Niger states….

The steady attacks have thrown the Christian community into opposing camps. While some continue to advocate for calm and prayer, others are now urging Christians to defend themselves.

Things are difficult in Nigeria, but in Sudan, which like Nigeria is divided between a Muslim north (now Sudan) and a Christian south (now South Sudan), they may be on the brink of disaster.

The problem is not simply a religious divide, although that clearly plays a role. As in Nigeria, oil is at the heart of the matter. The Economist states:

Over the past nine months the two Sudanese successor states were supposed to find a way to divide up such things as oil revenues, border posts and the rights of people living on one side of the border who wish to be citizens on the other. Both sides made outsized demands and engaged in extreme brinkmanship. New sparks flew when the south announced plans to build a pipeline to the Indian Ocean, through Kenya to the south-east, which would cut the north out of most of the oil trade. Militias, often proxies of the old rump state or the new southern one, attacked each other.

In Nigeria the problem is partially a corrupt government that is unable and unwilling to privatize oil production and turn its benefits towards sustainable growth. In Sudan foolish government actions are also behind the conflict.

On balance, the north has been more obstructive than the south. For years it has repeatedly acted in bad faith, loth even to contemplate independence for the south. But more recently it is the south that has been reckless, sending its troops to capture the Heglig oilfield, which lies clearly to the north of the border. This has turned niggling animosity into a conventional battle for territory. The north recaptured its lost land on April 20th, killing hundreds in the process and bombing a market near the southern town of Bentiu on April 23rd.

If this doesn’t highlight the great blessing that is good, just government, nothing does. As Americans we should not complain; we have it quite good indeed.

What is particularly worrisome is that like other recent African wars, this one could easily spread. Given that my brother is about to fly his family to Uganda to serve as a missionary, this is concerning:

As well as causing untold misery in the Sudans, an all-out conflict could suck in other countries. Uganda’s government has threatened to help South Sudan against the north, which it suspects of funding a Ugandan terror group, the Lord’s Resistance Army. Other governments in the region are keenly aware that the Sudans sit on a fault-line between Muslims and Christians that cuts from east to west across the continent, reaching volatile Nigeria and beyond.

Groups like the BarnabasAid are following events closely, noting that an Islamist mob recently torched a church and a Bible school in the northern capital of Khartoum. The United States, China, and other countries have an interest in maintaining peace, but events in Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, and elsewhere suggest there is only so much the international community can do. It is clear that our brothers and sisters desperately need our prayers.

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About Matthew J. Tuininga

Matthew J. Tuininga is the Assistant Professor of Moral Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Posted on April 27, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on The Dangers of Being an African Christian – Nigeria, Sudan, Uganda.

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