I was recently in Nigeria, both in the highly “Christian” south, and also in the highly “Muslim” north. Let me share a few thoughts on the recent global news of Boko Haram activities.
Boko Haram, which literally means “western education is sinful,” launched by an Islamist sect claiming responsibility for numerous kidnappings and bombings in Northern Nigeria, has become increasingly sophisticated since its first attacks in Nigeria in early 2010.
Since the West decided to designate several leaders of the movement as international terrorists, the Nigerian government has renewed interest in suppressing Boko Haram and its violent activities.
The media claim to have the solution. Source responses range from “sectarian religious violence,” lack of government control,”Christian Presidential leadership vacuum,” “lack of leadership,” “level of poverty in the north,” “security forces working as double agents,” and the list goes on.
But I would contend the media have it wrong.
Like many countries in Africa, who have enjoyed significant funding and influence from Islam and Christianity, Nigeria lives in the throws of a national identity torn by some who argue Christianity should be the national religion, while others argue for Islam.
But religious allegiance at the national level will not a nation deliver. Rather, personal and societal transformation in these cultures comes through internal course correction expressed in a transformation of attitude and behavior. In order for this change to take place, the change will come through new information that is spoken (e.g., song, story, epic, poem), which is heard, understood, and transmitted by those who are trusted with the truth–and usually in small groups that allow ample dialog.
No amount of media coverage, propaganda, threats, or government intervention will suppress this movement or streams like it. Change happens through the communication of new truth into a community that is clearly broken. In order for violent communities to change their actions, some more valuable result must be seen as real and permanent good.
For oral cultures, that information will come through a medium they understand–one that is auditory, not printed or forced upon a people who prefer to share through spoken word.
Once that’s solved, one must then direct attention to the content of the message being delivered. From where does peace come? Never from the sword or IED, but rather peace comes from another man. Only One of us can bring Peace.