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In the extreme Northeast corner of Nigeria, from Potiskum to Baja, lies the scene of the latest attack from Boko Haram, the al Qaeda-linked murderous group. In this attack, which spread through the region, as many as 2,000 people, mostly Christians, were slaughtered. In addition to the thousands that this demonic group has killed, more than 700,000 people (again, mostly Christians) have been displaced. They have lost their homes and all their possessions and have had to grieve on the run as they have fled the violence.

Of course that is what the evil members of Boko Haram want. They seek total Islamicization. The word “Islam” itself means “submission.” Boko Haram members believe that it is the ultimate expression of Islam to impose the dictates of Sharia Law. Sharia is the literal application of a system of cultural control that includes brutal penalties—even death— for a whole range of offenses.

Sadly, most of the people who died in the northern Nigerian carnage were elderly, infirm, or children, those who were least able to defend themselves or flee. The terrorists came into populated areas, firing rocket-propelled grenades into crowds,and binding and executing others.

This level of horror raises the question, “What is necessary to defeat groups like Boko Haram?”

To that issue, let me suggest some things that are essential to win against such evil.

Educate People About the Real Problem. 

International leaders need to be educated on the real problem. Sadly, the issue is not just a handful of radicals who are abandoning their “peaceful religion”; it is actually a broadly held position among Muslims to want to impose a Caliphate across the earth. Certainly, not all of them endorse the kind of violence of Boko Haram, al Qaeda, or Islamic State people, but a tragic number of Muslims are completely sympathetic with the goals of those groups. International political leaders need to hear from their constituents about the real nature of the problem and the threat. At issue are not Baptist or Buddhist.

Look, for example, at these quotes from the Qur’an:

“The Messenger and those who believe with him, strive hard and fight with their wealth and lives in Allah’s Cause.” Qur’an 9:88

“And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists [ed. Trinitarian believers] wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer [i.e., five time daily prayer], and give zaikai [tax paid by non-Muslims; they do not have full rights but are not killed at that point] let them [go] on their way. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.”  Qur’an 9:5 

“So fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief among non-Muslims) and all submit to the religion of Allah alone (in all the world).” Qur’an 8:39

There is no mitigating New Testament in Islam. There is also a problematic issue of a terribly violent history.

If Islam in general were not the problem, then you would see message board signs in front of American Mosques calling for an end to violence. You would see so many Imams speaking publicly for peace that their voices would become the voice of Islam. Instead, what we have is almost total silence from supposedly moderate Islamic leaders. When they speak, they are much more likely to insist that they not be profiled or intimidated than they are to denounce terrorism. If Islam is a religion of peace, then where are its advocates among the Muslims? With the millions of Muslims in North America and Europe, there should be more than the handful I have been able to find.

Engage in Spiritual Warfare

While identifying the problem is necessary at a temporal level, from a spiritual standpoint, the first step is intercessory prayer. We need to pray for God to intervene in protecting innocent life and also to intervene in revealing Himself in dreams and visions. Spiritual warfare needs to be taken seriously, and we need to “wrestle” with evil as Paul says in Ephesians 6.

Establish vast military superiority 

It is close to impossible to stop 100% of military-style threats, but we can do it much better than what is being done. Nigeria (for example) probably needs to deploy three to four military Divisions to the north of the country. That would be an additional 100,000 troops along with armor. This is not a war of words. The ability of the terrorists to identify unarmed civilians and attack them with sophisticated weaponry needs to be undermined if not eliminated. That action does not come from conversation. It comes from enough military presence to effect annihilation of those who pursue terror. History demonstrates that where there is the capacity of annihilation, it often does not have to be used. The threat of it interdicts many problems.

Evangelize

Whole groups of terrorists are not likely to embrace the Gospel in a people movement. It is possible, of course, and we should pray for that, but it is certain that we can make inroads by evangelizing people one-on-one. I’m not suggesting trotting off unarmed into the North of Nigeria with a Bible and a box of Chick Tracks. Neighbors and those with whom you come in contact need to hear the story of “How being a follower of Jesus has changed and enriched my life.” They need to be loved. Hopefully, many will be loved into the Kingdom before they get recruited by radicals set on violence. 

Expand Incrementally

In Recife, Brazil, the Church of the Holy Spirit and the Diocese of Recife are expanding the Kingdom’s presence one block at a time. They pray, evangelize, clean up, renew, and proclaim house-by-house and street-by-street. Now after years, it is obvious to see how the Kingdom of God is invading a place that was formerly run down and where evil ran unchecked. Now there are daycare centers, gyms, youth programs, schools, and churches. Expansion into the worst areas may need to be undertaken slowly with the unified force of those committed to living out Kingdom values, advancing the love of the Gospel step-by-step in incremental expansion into the areas that are the petri dishes of terror. There is no way in the long haul that the Gospel will be overcome.

Extend the Coalition Internationally

This is not a problem for Nigeria alone. It is one that must be engaged broadly across the nations of the world. We are going to have to work together, or we will fail at the task. While it may seem politically expedient to say, “No American boots on the ground,” the fact is that if there are not, then the radicalism likely will continue to spread because no nation has the capacity to do everything alone. Christians in particular (as well as other civic minded citizens) need to press their representatives to join in addressing this madness, or plan to see it at a mall near you soon.