Hudson Institute | Nina Shea | Jan. 11, 2020
An ongoing Islamic extremist project to exterminate Christians in sub-Saharan Africa is even more brutal and more consequential for the Church than it is in the Middle East, the place where Christians suffered ISIS “genocide,” as the U.S. government officially designated. A growing number of these African countries are seeing the rise of ISIS- and al-Qaida affiliates, and non-state terrorists like them, who specifically target Christians in their quest to establish Islamist rule.
These African churches are the youngest Church communities, whose exponential growth has prompted the Vatican and others to see Africa as “the beacon of hope for the Church.” Data released in 2019 by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary show, for the first time, Africa as the continent with the most Christians, numbering 631 million, surpassing even Latin America. Whereas hundred years ago, there were barely 2 million Catholics on the continent, now there are 230 million. But the bright future of African Christianity is imperiled by a fast-growing and violently intolerant Islamist trend, and the plight of these persecuted Christians has received far too little attention from the Western governments, NGOs and the media.
No place in sub-Sahara is more notorious for religious hostility against Christians than Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country. Over the last decade, more Christians have been deliberately murdered by Islamic extremists in Nigeria’s northern and central belts than in all the Middle East combined.
In the north, Boko Haram is the biggest scourge of Nigerian Christians. Founded in 2009, that group, whose name means “secular education is forbidden,” works to violently suppress all ideas and areas of knowledge outside of Islam. In its range of operations in rural northern Nigeria, the state governments already enforce sharia (Islamic) law, but Boko Haram aims to establish an Islamic state.