Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, has long been divided between a Christian culture in the south and a radical Islamic culture in the north. In 1999, 11 of Nigeria's 36 states contravened the country's constitution and implemented Sharia (Islamic) law. Without any substantial objection from the federal government, this has created an implied validation of social hostility against non-Muslims. This hostility often leads to mob violence for alleged blasphemy without any repercussions from a seemingly impotent government.1

In 2009, the Boko Haram terrorist group, which began as an al-Qaeda ally before also allying with the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS), vowed to rid the north of all non-Muslim influence, including Christians. That same year, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) designated Nigeria a "Country of Particular Concern." The Borno state government reports that by 2016, Boko Haram had killed over 100,000 people, orphaned at least 52,300 children, and displaced more than 2,000,000.2

In 2016, ISIS displaced Abubakar Shekau, who led Boko Haram at the time, and appointed their own leader Abu Musab al-Barnawi -- resulting in the operation of at least two distinct sects within the country. While now splintered, the unequivocal objective of the Islamic militants is a complete eradication of all non-Muslims. The choice provided Christians in northern Nigeria is reminiscent of the ultimatum issued by ISIS to Christians in the Levant: leave or die.3

Meanwhile, another growing terror to Christians in the Middle Belt of Nigeria are the Hausa-Fulani militants whose attacks on Christian-majority villages continue to mount in numbers. Tribal land disputes are often cited as a primary cause of the attacks, but the targeted nature of these attacks on Christians and their churches shows a marked agenda similar to the more well-known Christian oppressors in the north.4

4 Anthony Rhodes, VP of VOMC's International Projects & Operations

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