Another terrorism campaign is starting. A Nigerian Christian group has announced a “crusade” against Muslims and Islamic sites in retribution for persecution of Christians in the North.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) is a collection of armed groups in Nigeria that engage in violence and terrorism. Unlike what one might suspect of a terror group, it is not secret. It has a website and can be followed on Facebook. It has recently announced a new terror campaign — Operation Barbarossa — in Nigeria in “defense of Christianity.”
MEND asserts that they are responding to attacks on Christians and churches in Northern Nigeria, carried out primarily by the Boko Haram. More than 1,700 Christians and Muslims have been killed in recent years. More than 20,000 Christians have fled the country and more than 30 churches have closed.
Should there be any doubt that they intend to attack Muslims, engage in terrorism, or kill civilians, MEND has blatantly stated its intention to do so. In the words of MEND spokesman Jomo Gbomo, “The bombings of mosques, hajj camps, Islamic institutions, large congregations in Islamic events and assassinations of clerics that propagate doctrines of hate will form the core mission of this crusade.”
It should be noted that not all groups that identify with MEND — an increasingly fragmented group — will likely participate in this “crusade.” Said Tolu Ogunlesi, a journalist and witnesses to the Nigerian violence, “[T]here is a likelihood that we are going to experience some kind of Christian retaliatory killings for what's happening in the north. [However] I'm just not confident it will be MEND that will do it. Just like Boko Haram, it is not a single organisation but different faces and shadows all using the same name.” Those shadows will probably be the biggest factors in the violence.
The “crusade” could also expand beyond MEND. There are 25,000 Christian militants in Nigeria. If other Christian militants joined the fight, Nigeria’s internal conflict could escalate dramatically.
This possibility is not being taken lightly. Nigerians recall the civil war between 1967 and 1970, which was fueled in part by religious and ethnic differences. In that conflict, 3 million died from violence, hunger, and disease. Ken Henshaw of Social Action, a development and democracy group in Nigeria, has said, "Nigeria's so volatile. Things are getting out of control. Here's a group threatening to kill people, it must be taken seriously."
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), instead, is calling on the government of Nigeria to intervene. However, it asserts that the corrupted government is accepting bribes from the Boko Haram to ignore crimes against Christians.
These events show that violence and terrorism are not functions of a single religion. Anyone, anywhere, can be the victim of extremists who will stop at nothing to gain their point or attack those they hate, and any group can lose sight of the ideals that it claims to defend in its anger. The global community must oppose terrorism in all its forms and not ignore some in fear of the other.