Awful tragedy has struck Christian communities in Nigeria on a day that was meant for great celebration. This was undoubtedly the intent of Boko Haram to begin with -- perpetrating violence on unsuspecting Nigerian Christians on Christmas Day. The radical group attacked churches last year as well. It seeks to establish the most retrogressive form of Sharia law in Nigeria and has vowed similar attacks in the future.
The three affected churches are now smoldering infernos. The congregations they housed are grieving over their dead. Their trust in the Nigerian government is permanently shattered, and justifiably so.
Groups like Boko Haram self-righteously ignore the law. Their skewed ethics is derived from adherence to what they consider a higher law. The phrase Boko Haram means "Western Education is Sinful." Christian communities are seen as Western in every way; hence they are regarded as immoral and sinful. Boko Haram also believes in re-instituting the tribute known as "jizya" owed by religious minorities to the Islamic state under Sharia law.
A state configured around principles of Sharia would institute the tax in return for protection of minorities. Boko Haram most likely believes that since no such tax is levied on Christians in modern Nigeria, they can attack their fellow Nigerians of the Christian faith with impunity. Constituting 48 % of the Nigerian population, Christians are still a religious minority in the country, albeit a very large one.
Boko Haram is obviously governed by medieval notions of citizenship. This understanding of citizenship is intertwined with religious affiliation. Only Muslims according to this outlook would be entitled to full citizenship that also comes with the opportunity to run for highest political office in an Islamic state.
According to authentic Islamic sources, the jizya is justified because non-Muslims are not required to undertake jihad. In order for the Muslim state to provide them protection, it must impose a tax in lieu of the zakat which Muslims pay. This arrangement may seem fair enough if it were not open to such potential abuse. Radicals can very well infer from the absence of such a tax that the lives and liberty of non-Muslims is fair game.
Furthermore, Christian presence in Nigeria would be perceived as a great impediment toward the establishment of Sharia law. Thus begins the ethnic cleansing. Choosing Christmas Day to perpetrate violence is only one manifestation of that sinister agenda.
The Nigerian government has thus far been unsuccessful in preventing attacks on its Christian citizens. Despite a crackdown against the militant group by paramilitary agencies, Boko Haram continues its violence against Christians unabated.
While the Vatican and Western leaders have condemned the attacks on Christians as heinous and cowardly, an unequivocal denunciation must also come from the Islamic world against Boko Haram and other radical Islamic groups terrorizing Christian communities in their midst.
Muslim scholars, activist, and politicians must act together to formulate a potent response to the murderous tendencies of Muslim extremist groups.
Furthermore, law enforcement against such acts of barbarism must involve greater vigilance and stricter penalties. The world can no longer afford to witness a carnage unfold each year on Christmas Day. It is the obligation of Islamic and Western nations jointly to put an end to the madness and hatred expressed in brutal acts such as the attack on Christian churches on Christmas.
May next Christmas be a peaceful one for all the Christians of the world. And may the world be a more peaceful place for everyone - no matter who they are and what they believe!