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Standing with the brethren

"Standing with the brethren" Continued...

Issue: "2012 Daniels of the Year," Dec. 15, 2012

The tepid State Department response can be traced to the first Bush administration when, after the fall of Soviet Russia, U.S. diplomacy shifted toward collective engagement in the Muslim world. Secretary of State Edward Djerejian articulated that view in a 1992 policy speech: “The U.S. Government does not view Islam as the next “ism” confronting the West or threatening world peace,” he said. “The Cold War is not being replaced with a new competition between Islam and the West.” 

That philosophy is still winning the day three administrations later, as the State Department’s thoroughly postmodern worldview that suggests all religions are created equal. Carson says the United States wants to help “level the playing field” between northern and southern Nigeria, which includes reopening a consulate in the mostly Muslim north. He said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton feels “very, very strongly” about establishing a U.S. presence in the north, and the State Department has a “pot of money” set aside to do it. 

That doesn’t make sense in an area where U.S. officials can’t even monitor the use of USAID money because of the violence, said Emmanuel Ogebe, a Nigerian-American attorney working with CANAN (Officials with the U.S. embassy in the capital, Abuja, have been under travel restrictions keeping them out of the north for most of this year). Ogebe told me President Jonathan has not significantly helped Christians, taking federal funds to build Muslim schools but not rebuilding destroyed churches. “If the U.S. would exert as much pressure on him to care for the Christians as they’re pressuring him to care for the Muslims, maybe he would respond,” Ogebe said. 

CANAN is pushing for more help from U.S. Christians, too, many of whom are tied to their Nigerian brethren by more than faith in Christ. Over 100 Episcopal churches in 40 U.S. states and 130 military and civilian chaplains in recent years have come under the oversight of the Anglican Church in Nigeria, which has about 20 million members. Bishop Julian Dobbs, who oversees the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, told me stateside Christians have an obligation to care for fellow believers and logical reasons to do so: “There is a growing Islamic ideology in the U.S. that clearly wants to see Sharia law applied here in the United States.” 

Dobbs has surveyed the carnage firsthand in Nigeria, and he refuted the suggestion of sectarian violence, noting that “Islamic terrorists are bent on destroying any sign of the gospel.” Ninety-five percent of Anglicans in the northern Maiduguri Diocese, where Boko Haram is headquartered, have fled into exile, including its bishop. The Anglican bishop in Bauchi, another northern state, described the violence as “butchering on a daily basis.” 

CANAN leaders have pointed to the Christian missionaries leaving Nigeria as an indication of the country’s grim reality because “they’re always the last to go.” Missions organizations need to be more engaged in advocacy, or they risk losing the ability to go into unreached areas, warns Katharine Gorka, executive director of the Westminster Institute: “Persecution is so on the rise that it’s going to become increasingly difficult for missionaries to go on the field, and it’s increasingly difficult on the converts, who end up being killed. More Christian agencies must get involved in pressuring the U.S. government to crack down on religious persecution.”

The persecution continued Nov. 25 when suicide bombers killed 30 at St. Andrews Military Protestant Church in the northern town of Jaji. Advocates for Christians predict that a likely day for another attack is Dec. 25, since Boko Haram has carried out Christmas Day attacks the last two years. 

Almost two weeks after the attack in Kaduna, St. Rita’s congregants returned to the damaged church to remember the victims. Several were laid to rest side by side in a group burial, symbolic of the collective loss. “We were grieved, but leave vengeance for God,” Archbishop Matthew Ndagoso said. “Let’s all intensify our prayers for those who were persecuting the church.”

J.C. Derrick
J.C. Derrick

J.C. is a reporter in WORLD's Washington Bureau. He spent 10 years covering sports, higher education, and politics for the Longview News-Journal and other newspapers in Texas before joining WORLD in 2012. Follow J.C. on Twitter @jcderrick1.

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