While it’s received little attention in Western media, Islamic extremism across the Sahel region of Africa has been on the rise in recent years, particularly in Nigeria, where more Christians are murdered for their faith than any other country.
However, it’s not just Christians who experience violence at the hand of violent opponents. A Muslim woman who lived in Nigeria recently shared her harrowing experience of facing persecution for speaking out against radical Islam and urged the global community to promote peaceful mediation and the promotion of pluralistic values in a situation she described as a “time bomb.”
The Christian Post reports that Hafsat Maina Muhammed, the founder of Choice for Peace, Gender and Development, provided testimony to a panel hosted by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to discuss religious persecution in Nigeria.
As an educated and outspoken woman, she was targeted by the Islamist extremists she says are terrorizing the people of Nigeria.
“Religious leaders back in the northern part of Nigeria say I am too educated and I am too outspoken, which I shouldn’t be,” she told the panel. “Every day, I ask, why was I persecuted because I am a Muslim woman? Why should I act the way they want me to act or believe the way they want me to believe?”
She explained that Boko Haram, the jihadist terror group best known for kidnapping schoolchildren which expressly opposes Western education, has “unleashed mayhem” on communities and local and state governments.
They also targeted her personally, she said.
“I’ve been a victim of rape from these people,” Muhammed explained. “I’ve been a victim of brutal beating. I’ve been a victim of their incarcerations. And I’ve escaped. … But this is to say that many women and many people in Nigeria, especially the northeastern part of Nigeria, regardless of their faith — and this is what I believe based on my research and what I have seen — regardless of them being Muslims or Christians, have faced persecution and are still facing persecutions.”
She said that while she was “privileged” to be able to get out, many women are forced to stay in harm’s way because they have “nowhere to go.”
“They have nothing to turn to,” Muhammed said. “So in the end, they are stuck where they are. So I am privileged to be out of a situation that I once thought I would never come out alive from.”
One horrific detail she shared of the violence against those targeted by Islamic extremists was having seen women’s bellies cut open and their unborn babies removed.
Muhammed accused the Nigerian government of inaction in response to this grievous crisis.
“The government in Nigeria, we’ve known for far too long, is not working,” she said. “The laws are not working… Yes, there is religious intolerance, but it’s not about Islam, it’s not about Christianity, it’s not about Hinduism or Buddhism. It’s about a people that can’t come together to live in peace and understand each other respectfully. There is lack of tolerance. There is lack of mediation.”
“People in Nigerian government and terrorists and jihadists [want] to inflict pain by forcing people to believe what they believe or act the way they want them to act,” she continued “… The U.S. government needs to focus on the Nigerian government, and I don’t know, educating them perhaps, or bringing them to … [communicate] with their people.”
Saints, remember that in places where the church is being persecuted, those who are not of the faith often face horrific violence and abuse as well, particularly women and children. Moral leaders everywhere need to come together to strongly condemn any inaction to address Boko Haram’s violent reign of terror in Nigeria.
Pray for the church. Pray for the victims of these purely evil terrorists. And pray that those who are in the position to influence the government of Nigeria will have the courage and adequate concern for the value of all human life to do so.
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