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Evil of Boko Haram

16 May 2014

THE Islamist group Boko Haram has been operating in north-east Nigeria for the past 14 years. Among the many atrocities it has committed were the attacks on churches in the region at Christmas 2010 and Easter 2012. As its name, translated as "Western education is a sin", suggests, the group targets schools in particular, with a result that most schools in the area have closed down. The 276 schoolgirls kidnapped in Chibok had assembled for just a few days to take exams. It was a brave act, and it is hard to imagine a set of more innocent victims, or a more obnoxious ideology that prompted the assault on them. There is no wonder that people around the world are upset by their fate.

Two things are missing from the story. The first is a sober political perspective. There is the sense that Boko Haram went a step too far in abducting the girls. But their murderous activities long ago warranted the attention of the international community, and certainly the national government. And the outrages continue: just a week ago on Monday, a Boko Haram militia destroyed the centre of the town of Gamboro, reportedly killing 375 people, an event that received scant attention in the international press, and would have had even less had it not been for the girls' abduction.

The second notable absence is condemnation from other Muslims. There have been protests in Nigeria, not least because Boko Haram has attacked mosques deemed to be to accommodating. But the Islamic states in the north of Africa and the Middle East could do more to isolate Boko Haram, perhaps even by contributing to the efforts to find the girls and neutralise the group's threat. There are enough misconceptions of Muslim belief and practice without adding the enforced conversion of vulnerable girls to the list.

Beware of bullies

THE new church guidelines about homophobic bullying are to be commended, as much for their existence as their content. After years of clumsy official statements (e.g. Resolution 1.10 from Lambeth 1998), it is good to read: "Pupils may justify homophobic bullying because: they think that homosexual people should be bullied because they believe homosexual people are 'wrong'; they do not think that there is anything wrong in bullying someone because of their sexual orientation; they do not realise that it is bullying. . ." The authors, throughout, seek to separate bullying from the ex­­pression by Christians of a neg­ative view. Bullying is defined tightly: insen­si­tive use of language, direct abuse, and physical harm. But if the definition were widened to in­­clude discrim­inatory be­­haviour, persistent condemnation, and the scape­goating of gay marriage for "under­mining" Christian marriage (unmarried cohabitation, divorce, and serial marriage being a few elephants in this room), surely the Church would find itself in detention. We would not pick out one group of children to hector persist­ently about a sensitive area of life. Why treat adults in this way?

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