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Photos of students killed in the Al-Shabab attack on Garissa University College on April 7, 2015 (Recep Canik/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Recep Canik/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Africa's Christians Targeted by Islamic Terrorists

Lela Gilbert

Africa was once called “The Dark Continent.” Although the term is out of date, today a specific darkness — radical Islamism — is sweeping across the world’s second largest landmass.

A gory ISIS video, meant to glorify the beheadings of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians on a Libyan beach, has become an iconic representation of Christian bloodshed. Nonetheless, the scale of deadly incidents against Christians in Africa remains under-reported in the West. This, despite the dark shadow of violent attacks that continues to enlarge, extinguishing the lives of hundreds of Africa’s Christian believers.

Most recently, we learn from Morning Star News, a Christian publication, that another 13 victims, mostly Christian, were murdered in Kenya in early July. Their killers were part of the al-Shabaab militia, a Somalia-based terrorist group.

One of al-Shabaab’s most notorious attacks on Kenya’s Christians took place in April 2015. BBC reported, “At least 147 people, mostly students, have been killed in an assault by al-Shabab militants on a university in north-eastern Kenya. Heavily armed attackers stormed Garissa University early on Thursday, killing two security guards then firing indiscriminately on students….It is the deadliest attack yet by al-Shabab. The militants singled out Christians and shot them, witnesses said.”

More recently in Egypt, on May 26, CNN reported, “At least 28 people were killed…after unidentified gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying Coptic Christians in what officials are calling a terror attack.”

ISIS declared responsibility for that attack — one of their many recent and successful assaults on Egypt’s Christians. So far, more than 100 Coptic Christians have been murdered this year.

Al-Shabaab and ISIS are far from being the only active Islamist groups operating in Africa. In fact, there are more than 30 such factions.

Perhaps even more notorious than al-Shabaab is Boko Haram, the radical militia that abducted hundreds of young girls in Nigeria in April 2014. Many of the girls were Christian. And despite the “Bring Back our Girls” campaign, many were sold as sex slaves or otherwise abused. The fate of scores of them remains unknown.

Distinctions between various Islamist groups matter little when their heavily armed terrorists suddenly appear and demand that their victims convert to Islam and recite the Shahada in Arabic — There is no god but Allah and Mohammad is the messenger of Allah. Otherwise they suffer brutal executions, including beheading.

In Nigeria, more recently, Boko Haram has been upstaged by a violent tribe of nomadic Muslim herdsmen called the Fulani. In the last three months of 2016 and continuing until today, their attacks have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Christian believers, according to a local bishop.

“Fifty-three villages burned down,” Bishop Joseph Bagobiri explainedto a Christian aid group earlier this year, according to The Christian Post. “Eight hundred and eight people murdered and 57 wounded, 1,422 houses and 16 churches destroyed.” The numbers continue to climb.

Nigerian Christians who survive Fulani incursions face serious injury, loss of loved ones, and homelessness. Meanwhile, starvation aggravated by an ongoing famine is rampant.

These incidents, terrible as they are, are but the latest examples in a long and complex series of atrocities.

A record of the radical Islamism that continues to bloody Africa’s Christians is being faithfully kept. Open Doors International publishes an annual report on anti-Christian persecution, ranking countries according to their abuse of Christian believers.

According to the 2017 World Watch List, 16 of the world’s 50 worst persecutors of Christians are African states: Somalia No. 2, Sudan No. 5, Eritrea No. 10, Libya No. 11, Nigeria No. 12, Kenya No. 18, Egypt No. 21, Ethiopia No. 22, Tunisia No. 29, Mali No. 32, Tanzania No. 33, Central African Republic No. 34, Algeria No. 36, Djibouti No. 40, Comoros No. 42, Mauritania No. 47.

The report offers a grim overview of what is indeed an encroaching darkness sweeping across Africa.

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