Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Boko Haram attack: Nigerian Christians sang hymns before slaughter

Christian congregations in northern Nigeria had taunted Boko Haram insurgents with defiant hymns about religious war before their churches were overrun and burnt and their people slaughtered.

Muslim community leaders have claimed that the militants targeted specific Christian communities after learning that people had circulated the songs, a cross between jingly church music and synthetic pop but with sectarian lyrics.

The lyrics accuse Boko Haram — which has killed up to 13,000 people and left millions more displaced — of travelling to centres of Islamic extremism such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and telling people there that Nigeria is a caliphate.

The songs came to light as news emerged that the Islamist militants had launched fresh attacks in Borno state, disguising themselves as preachers and gathering residents of a remote village at a mosque before opening fire. At least 24 people were killed in the latest demonstration that Nigeria’s government seems impotent against the extremists.
However, it is Nigeria’s Christian community that has borne the overwhelming brunt of Boko Haram’s six-year insurgency.

In one of the songs obtained by The Times the catchy beats belied an ominous message. “Muslims don’t want peace ... they are destroying people’s lives,” the singer claims. “We Nigeria, we Christian Nigeria, we have come together now, we understand this is a religious war.”

In a series of musical call-and- replies, a male singer lists states and cities that have been attacked by the insurgents while a female chorus responds: “They burnt our churches!”

“You Muslims you bring Sharia law just to oppress Christians,” it continues in the Hausa language, which is predominant in Nigeria’s north.

David Kwagga, an officer in the Boys’ Brigade, a Christian youth movement, had the song on his mobile phone when his home town, Michika, was overrun last year. He said members of the brigade, who provided security outside churches, had been “selling it around,” and that it was popular in services.

Salihi Ateequ, a member of the Muslim Council for Adamawa state, one of three north-eastern provinces under a state of emergency, said the hymns had encouraged Boko Haram to “vent on the people of Michika”. He said that one song had accused the insurgents of cowardice for not fighting in the daytime.

“People were selling audiocassettes with this abuse and it got into the hands of Boko Haram, because they have informants,” he said. “So they came, on a Sunday, in the day.”

The Islamists have suffered setbacks since soldiers from neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and Niger began helping the Nigerian army in February.

Dauda Bello, an imam and a member of the Adamawa Peace Initiative, said that the insurgents had tried to drive a wedge between Christians and Muslims.

When The Times visited towns that had been under Boko Haram control — including Michika, Bazza, Gombi and Mubi — all had churches that had been burnt. At a church in Bazza the insurgents had decapitated a statue of St Patrick and burnt the parish records office.

“Most of the first victims were Christians,” said a university lecturer who asked not to be named. “Some of the Muslims were jubilating and some of the young Muslims joined Boko Haram.”

He added that Christians were still so angry that “if a Muslim goes back to Michika, he will surely die”.

The Times

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