The horrific news shook our souls though we were 7,000 miles and a world away. The hashtag #BringBackOurGirls flooded our timelines, garnering global attention and turning our eyes and hearts to the West African nation of Nigeria where 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped, 100 of them never to return. For many, it introduced us to Boko Haram and his ruthless reign of terror.
Fast forward to today. In America, we have been challenged on a multitude of fronts. We have witnessed a racial reckoning unlike any another in recent history as hundreds of thousands have protested in city streets against police brutality.
On June 6 alone, 500,000 Americans raised their collective voices in 550 cities across the nation. Racial unrest raged in Wisconsin after the shooting of Jacob Blake.
The signs carried by participants read “Black Lives Matter,” “No Justice No Peace” and “Stop the Violence.”
In the U.S. or Africa, violations of justice are a threat to us all.
While most of the world is focused on fighting the pandemic, we are largely unaware of the genocide that stills rages in Nigeria, right now. As we advocate for justice in America, we must not forget that this same clarion call for justice is desperately needed outside of America too.
Just more than 460 Nigerians have been killed during the months of July and August alone by radicalized Fulani militants. More than 50,000 people have been killed and 2 million people have been displaced since 2009 at the hands of Boko Haram’s armies and Fulani terrorists.
According to the Global Terrorism Index, Nigeria is currently the world’s third most dangerous country - after Afghanistan and Iraq - and the killing in this region is greater than that committed by ISIS in Iraq and Syria combined.
In June, the U.K. All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief (APPG) released a report about the Fulani militia violence called, “Nigeria: Unfolding Genocide.” It claimed that, “…thousands of civilians are thought to have been killed [this year] in attacks led by Fulani herders and periodic retaliatory violence.”
Dr. Gregory Stanton of Genocide Watch recently said, “Boko Haram is committing genocide against Christians and crimes against humanity and against children, especially girls it kidnaps to become sex slaves. It forces boys to become child soldiers.” He continued, “Fulani Militants in central Nigeria are also committing crimes against humanity and genocidal massacres against Christians. What is mistakenly portrayed as a conflict between herders and farmers is actually a genocidal war…”
Though culture and continent separate us, our common humanity necessitates intentional involvement. Here are three ways America should help, right now:
- The U.S. Government should appoint a Special Envoy to Nigeria and the Lake Chad region to engage with victim communities and relevant government administrations in order to help coordinate an international response to the crisis and the most effective strategy to work with our allies and the UN to stop this genocide. When the world ignores crimes against humanity, thousands of innocent people are slaughtered, as it did with Rwanda where 800,000 individuals died. While we are mired in a noisy election cycle here in the United States, our nation still has the capability to make appointments to decisively address such an atrocity even now.
- Secondly, the American faith community should stand with the Nigerian Christian community, as one unified body, by supporting ministries on the ground that are providing medical aid and humanitarian support to survivors, and essential care to the 3 million displaced refugees, rebuilding the 13,000 burned churches and schools and offering financial and spiritual support to the families of martyrs. The persecution of religious minorities throughout the world must be of utmost importance, especially to the Christian, as scripture admonishes us to remember those imprisoned and ill-treated for the faith as if we were suffering with them.
- And lastly, social justice activists in America, who are fighting for equality for Black descendants of the African diaspora, should also consider advocating for justice and peace across the Atlantic in the homeland, so that all humanity may know that this time of reckoning was limitless, combatting unfettered injustice and unfathomable violence in its myriad forms. Support a nonprofit that is serving Nigerian communities. Every little bit helps.
Although the megaphone of western media has been largely silent about Nigeria’s genocide this year, the slaughter has not relented and men, women and countless children under continual assault remain defenseless and in great peril. And tragically, with a death toll of nearly 1,500 in the first six months of 2020 there is no end in sight.
According to the collaborative efforts of the International Committee On Nigeria (ICON), the intensity of the systematic killing, rape and torture of ethnic minorities and predominantly Christian communities in Nigeria is only projected to increase.
These lives cannot wait for another emotion-driven hashtag. Now is the time for action, America. Ignorance is no longer an excuse.