Boko Haram, a Hausa phrase meaning “Western education is forbidden,” is a militant Islamic insurgency whose stated aim is the establishment, by force, of a strict, sharia-law theocracy in Nigeria. Christians have always been a particular target of Boko Haram violence; in the past year alone, its attacks have killed some 900 Nigerian Christians, and bombed, torched, or otherwise destroyed scores of Christian churches, villages, and homes. But the group has become famous for equally murderous assaults on an unusually wide range of perceived “enemies”: local police stations, international aid-agency offices, and even, or especially, other Muslims who dare to defy its edicts. In the middle of the night on September 29, for example, Boko Haram gunmen slaughtered 44 sleeping students and teachers at the dormitories of an agricultural college in Nigeria’s northern Yobe State.
On November 14, Hudson Institute hosted a panel discussion addressing the ongoing activities of Boko Haram and steps by the international community necessary to reverse and halt the rising trend of extremist violence this group has come to represent.
Panelists included: Nigerian Adamu Habila, a first-hand witness to the terror, and the sole survivor of a massacre of his neighborhood in 2012. Adumu Habila is the first known victim of Boko Haram to visit Washington and speak publicly about his experiences. Emmanuel Ogebe and Ann Buwalda, two experts who recently returned from a fact-finding mission to Nigeria, reported on the Nigerian government’s response to the violence; the inadequacy of U.S. and Western involvement and assistance; and the internationalization of the plight of Nigeria’s indigenous Christian population.
Emmanuel Ogebe is an international human rights lawyer and expert in bilateral U.S.-Nigerian relations who founded the “Justice for Jos Project” in 2010, which seeks redress for the victims of Boko Haram terrorism in Northern Nigeria.
Ann Buwalda, an attorney and law professor, is the Executive Director of Jubilee Campaign, an organization focusing on international religious freedom, the plight of religious-based refugees, and other human rights issues. She recently interviewed Nigerian Christians who have taken refuge in Cameroon.
Hudson Institute Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Religious Freedom, Nina Shea, moderated the discussion.