“I’m calling on my brethren, my relatives, parents, my church, LCC [Local Church Council] Pemi 1, the DCC [District Church Council], and the GCC [General Church Council]; that is our headquarters,” Pastor Yikura says. “I’m calling on the office of the president of my church, officials of Chibok Local Government Council, the Borno state governor, and the president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, to please help get me released from captivity.
“With your help I believe I will be able to get out of here where I’m being held captive. Please help secure my release from Boko Haram captivity – whatever may be their demands, if it is not beyond your power, and I know their demands wouldn’t be beyond you. I know our God is powerful and His mighty presence is here; with your support I will definitely leave this place I’m being held because I know you can meet their demands.
“Whether it is Nigeria’s president, our governor, including the leadership of our Christian faith, it is not beyond your power to get me out of here.
“However, if this is the end of my life, then praise be to God. It is my prayer that God help us all. That’s all I have to say, and may you all heed to my plea.”
Boko Haram originated as a Salafi jihadist movement in northeast Nigeria in 2002 under the leadership of Mohammed Yusuf, according to USCIRF, evolving into a violent insurgency in 2009. Shekau assumed leadership after Yusuf’s death that year.
“Under Shekau’s leadership, Boko Haram – sometimes referred to as Jama’at Ahl al-Sunna li-l-Da’wa wa al-Jihad, or JAS – gained notoriety as one of the deadliest and most gruesome jihadist insurgencies in the world,” a USCIRF fact sheet released this month notes. “The group’s abduction of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok in 2014 triggered an international outcry and an escalation of military efforts to neutralize the movement.”
Shekau continues to command a core force of roughly 2,500 fighters that controls territory in northeast Nigeria and parts of Niger state, according to USCIRF.
Boko Haram is commonly translated to mean “Western-education is forbidden,” but several scholars say this interpretation relies on “boko” being interpreted as a local corruption of the English word “book” and instead interpret “boko” as a Hausa word meaning inauthentic or fraudulent, according to USCIRF.
Nigeria was the country with the most Christians killed for their faith last year (November 2019-October 2020), at 3,530, up from 1,350 in 2019, according to Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List. In overall violence, Nigeria was second only to Pakistan, and it trailed only China in the number of churches attacked or closed, 270, according to the list.
Nigeria led the world in number of kidnapped Christians last year with 990, according to the WWL report. In the 2021 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria broke into the top 10 for the first time, jumping to No. 9 from No. 12 the previous year.
The U.S. State Department on Dec. 7 added Nigeria to its list of Countries of Particular Concern for engaging in or tolerating “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.” Nigeria joined Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan on the list.
In a more recent category of non-state actors, the State Department also designated ISWAP, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Greater Sahara, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin, and the Taliban as “Entities of Particular Concern.”
On Dec. 10 the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, issued a statement calling for investigation into crimes against humanity in Nigeria.
This article originally appeared on MorningStarNews.org. If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit MorningStarNews.org for a list of organizations that can orient you on how to get involved.