A Christian woman at a church service in Nigeria.
Courtesy Open Doors International
The Boko Haram insurgency that emerged in 2009 has used violence to subjugate people and force them into Islam. Boko Haram violence is the single greatest cause of violent deaths and displacement in Nigeria, ranking it more deadly than the self-proclaimed Islamic State in 2014. The UN estimates 2.5 million people, including 1.5 million children, have been displaced since May 2013. There was also a sharp increase in violence against women.
“Our Bodies, Their Battleground,” a research report commissioned by Open Doors, concluded that the attacks — committed either directly by Boko Haram members, or indirectly due to the situation created by the conflict — included:
• Kidnapping and forced marriages, with compulsory conversion to Islam.
• Domestic violence, in the case of a Christian convert, to punish un-Islamic practices such as Christian prayers, Bible reading, attending Bible study groups, or church activities.
• Rape meant to rob Christian girls of their virginity and force them to marry older Muslim men.
• Physical abuse, including beatings, rape, or acid thrown into the face for not covering their heads or wearing “provocative” clothing in mixed neighbourhoods or communities.
• Burning of shops and business premises belonging to Christian women, based on their interpretation of Islam that women belong at home.
According to the report, Boko Haram’s attacks on Christian communities in Nigeria are not random and mindless, but are a carefully calculated part of its campaign to intimidate the population into accepting Islam.