What started as a home-grown movement for Sharia law in northern Nigeria is now a full-scale insurgency. Boko Haram attacks have terrorized this part of the country for years.
In April, the insurgents kidnapped over 200 schoolgirls (#bringbackourgirls), which earned them both ignominy and notice. It’s been more than six weeks since the kidnapping, and seemingly little progress has been made in bringing the girls back home.
Wycliffe Associates President and CEO Bruce Smith says this group of girls is not just a headline to them. “Unfortunately, to us they’re not ‘unknown faces.’ They’re family members of some of the people that are directly involved in Bible translation in that part of Nigeria.”
Boko Haram wants to implement Sharia law throughout the north, and in their quest to accomplish this, nearly three and a half million Nigerians have been displaced inside the country last year. According to Nigeria’s National Commission for Refugees (NCFR), the sudden spike in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) comes from a combination of Boko Haram attacks, counter insurgency operations, and ongoing inter-communal violence.
The group’s use of suicide attacks, bombings, and raids have spread to most northern states and south toward Abuja, and its targets have become almost exclusively civilians. It has looted villages, killed and kidnapped residents, used forced conscription, and abducted women and girls.
Since April, the insurgents have stepped up the frequency and brazenness of its attacks on villages in the region. For translation partners, this is a continuing and immediate threat to their families. As a result, “They have essentially all abandoned their homes, and they’re sleeping out in the woods and in surrounding areas because they’re afraid of being attacked directly.” Smith adds, “We still have staff that are living and working in Nigeria. Bible translation is a high priority need there. They have more than 300 languages that have been identified that have not one verse of Scripture and need to be started.”
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