U.S. Can No Longer Ignore Nigerian Genocide

Boko Haram, the Jihadist terrorists organization


Every weekend, hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites head to their local church to celebrate their faith. If it’s a snowy Wisconsin morning, they might worry about driving conditions, but most likely their biggest worry that morning is the coffee stain on their shirt and whether their kids will behave for the service. Nobody in Wisconsin gives it two thoughts on whether someone will set up a road block, kidnap their family and murder them just because of their religious beliefs. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Christians in Nigeria have to worry about every time they go to service or someone knocks on their door.

A silent genocide being levied against Christians has been going on in Nigeria over the last decade. Just last year, over 1,000 Christians were murdered by Fulani militants, and over 6,000 have been killed since 2015 — with another 12,000 displaced. In addition to the Fulani militants targeting Christian communities, terrorist group Boko Haram is increasingly abducting and murdering Nigerian Christians who refuse to denounce their faith. Last month, it was reported that Boko Haram had executed the chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria after kidnapping him earlier in the month. January also brought reports that Leah Sharibu, who was one of 110 schoolgirls abducted in Nigeria in February 2018, had given birth to the child of Boko Haram’s commander after being forcefully married. Leah was reportedly the only one of the school girls not yet released. The reported reason for her remaining captive is her refusal to renounce her Christianity.

Sadly, despite what’s a Christian genocide by any standards, the Nigerian government not only doesn’t seem to care, it appears to be appeasing the persecutors of these atrocities. Reports of regional laws limiting what Christian pastors can preach, Nigerian soldiers starving and raping those who escape Boko Haram, and an utter disinterest of the Nigerian government to protect its own people are only escalating the situation.

In fact, according to Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, “The Nigerian government has displayed what can only be described as gross incompetence and failure in its duty to protect the lives of its population. … The authorities’ lethargy has allowed impunity to flourish and the killings to spread to many parts of the country, inflicting greater suffering on communities who already live in constant fear of the next attack.”

In 1994, America was slow to respond to the Rwandan genocide — a decision many Americans regret and then-President Bill Clinton went on to apologize for. While Rwanda required military intervention, we now have other options that don’t require "boots on the ground." In 2016, Congress passed legislation that allows the administration to impose targeted sanctions against governmental and non-governmental actors involved in “serious human rights abuse.” In effect, the law allows the U.S. president to sanction the Nigerian government and individual governmental officials if they continue to refuse to protect their own citizens. In addition, the U.S. president can designate Nigeria a “Country of Particular Concern” under the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act and send a special envoy to monitor the situation. These two actions will force Nigeria to take action to protect its own citizens.

Many of us have seen the movie "Hotel Rwanda" and were able to relive what inaction in the face of genocide looks like. Let’s not give Hollywood another atrocity to put on the big screen. President Trump needs to take diplomatic action now and end the Nigerian Christian genocide.

Nancy Milholland is co-founder of the Racine TEA Party and an executive board member of the 1st Congressional District Republican Party of Wisconsin.