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'
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?