In the last ten days, the western world was stunned and horrified by the sight of an instantly viral video of two black-clad Islamic gunmen murdering a police officer in the streets of Paris. The pair, it transpired, had just emerged from the offices of the “satirical” magazine Charlie Hebdo where they had just finished killing 11 other people while shouting “Allahu Akbar,” the Islamic Jihadist chant.
While marches of hundreds of thousands were being organized in Paris, while the governments of the western powers were issuing statements of fury and condemnation and while thousands, or more probably hundreds of thousands on Facebook and Twitter claimed “I am Charlie” in “solidarity,” the story of the dead in Nigeria was passed over in the MSM and social media with cold indifference.
At precisely the same moment as the Paris shootings, the news that nearly an entire community of Nigerians in that country’s far northeast had been brutally slaughtered and the survivors displaced, and their town “razed to the ground,” went nearly unnoticed. The mass murder by Boko Haram of possibly as many as 2,000 people in Baga, northeastern Nigeria, is only the most recent atrocity in a campaign of pogroms, massacres, mass-enslavements, systematic rape, kidnapping of children, and razing of towns and villages that has been ongoing for over a decade.
No one looking at the internet for five minutes in the last ten days could have missed the news of the Paris shootings, but if you want to hear about Baga, you would have had to go looking. This inconsistency in reportage, and in the volume of international outrage, would appear bizarre, inexplicable, and itself a source of outrage, were it not for one factor: there are two entirely different and opposed worldviews at work, and they cannot talk to each other.
Why, we may legitimately ask, does the killing of 12 people in Paris trigger such horror and universal outbursts of demonstrations, comment and condemnation; while the killing of possibly as many as 2,000 and the destruction of an entire town, float gently past the world’s eyes with hardly a flicker? Could it simply be that the people of Baga were the wrong kind of martyrs?
A Catholic bishop of Nigeria has raised the same question, saying that the people of Nigeria are defenseless against Boko Haram, one of the most vicious Islamist organizations in the world, and the world just isn’t interested. Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos was quoted by the UK’s Catholic Herald last week saying that the international community must stop Boko Haram, and that the same spirit that instigated the reaction to the Paris killings must be applied to the decade-old threat in Nigeria.
“We need that spirit [of the Paris demonstrations] to be spread around. Not just when [an attack] happens in Europe, but when it happens in Nigeria, in Niger, in Cameroon. We [must] mobilise our international resources and face or confront the people who bring such sadness to many families,” Kaigama told the BBC.
But is anyone asking what the Paris demonstrations, and “I’m Charlie” Twitter/Facebook frenzy, were really about? Maybe we can get a hint about what Islamists think it’s about, and a hint as to why there was so little coverage of Baga in the West, from this weekend’s news about the “reprisal” burnings of Catholic churches in Niger – where Boko Haram is in control – in “protest” against Charlie Hebdo’s depictions of Muhammad. To Islamists, the “West” simply means Christendom. The Charlie Hebdo shooters thought they were “striking a blow” against the “children of the Cross.”
The western media’s response shows that the Parisians and other western secularists joining the mass demonstrations thought something quite different. I’ve done a little reading in the last few days, and a possible explanation is that the “West” is simply not ready for the full horror of the reality of the Islamic war currently being waged in Europe, Syria, Iraq, and Nigeria – and yes, bleeding over to North America. They are not ready to face the vastness of its geographical and temporal scale.
What the Islamists seem to have failed to grasp – or simply don’t care about – is that we post-Christian “Westerners” believe that Christianity has already been defeated, laid as low as they could wish by the final triumph of the French “Enlightenment’s” aggressive secularism.
The news that the Islamists have missed is that there is, in effect, no more Christendom left to fight. It comes as a shock to learn that these jihadist Islamist supremacists are still living in the medieval world of popes and emperors, of the Battle of Lepanto and the fall of Constantinople. We are stunned into confused, uncomprehending silence at the threat from ISIS that they will at last “conquer Rome,” a boast/threat that leaves the rest of the world doing the slow-blink and asking, “Ummm, why?”
What the “West” has forgotten, along with the historical reality of Christianity as the foundation of our civilization, is the historical reality of Christendom’s thousand-year long, vicious, and horrific war with Islam. And it is this historical reality that, perhaps out of sheer terror at the potential consequences of its revival, the remains of Christendom are desperate to deny.
The European Union once famously vigorously opposed the request by Pope John Paul II to insert some – any – reference to Christianity as the foundation of Europe in the EU’s constitution. The EU, along with the rest of the “post-Christian west,” in love with its new dogmas of secularism, is in a deep and perhaps deadly-dangerous, state of denial.
To see the horrors of that reality one only has to glance at the sections of Africa where this ancient war is still very hot indeed. To Vatican Radio, Archbishop Kaigama, who lives in a country where denial is impossible to maintain, confirmed what US State Department experts have also said, that Boko Haram, like ISIS in Iraq and Syria, is attempting to supplant the government of Nigeria. Boko Haram wants to establish a sharia-based Islamic superstate, and according to State Department documents, is on its way to succeeding. The State Department says that Boko Haram’s “caliphate” is the only “strong state” in the area, and is thought to control about 20 percent of Nigerian territory.
“So far they have actually captured a number of local governments,” Archbishop Kaigama told Vatican Radio. “Villages and towns have fallen under their control, and they declare they have established an Islamic caliphate.” The archbishop added that the militants have spread their control over the border into Chad, Cameroon, and Niger.
Let us have a close, unflinching look at this terrifying reality. Baga, is - or was - a pair of small towns in the furthest northeastern corner of Nigeria that until the beginning of January was home to about 10,000 people as well as the Nigerian military base that made it a substantial target. The reports by the BBC, showing satellite photographs and using a report from the ground by Amnesty International, say that the twin towns of Baga and Doron Baga are no longer habitable and that Boko Haram has burned nearly the entire town to the ground.
“Since 2009, Boko Haram has deliberately targeted civilians through raids and bomb attacks with attacks increasing in frequency and severity,” Amnesty’s report says. This has included mass murder, destruction of towns and villages, a systematic program of rape, abduction, and enslavement of women, the abduction and exploitation of children as slaves and child soldiers and suicide bombers.
Reports from the latest Baga attack said that Boko Haram militants were killing people “indiscriminately” and “like animals” and that at least one woman was murdered while in the process of giving birth. Local witnesses said that militants rounded up hundreds of women and children, finally releasing only the older women and some of the children. Younger women and girls were kept prisoner and are now thought to be among those being used as suicide bombers.
Best available information indicates that over 3,700 structures in the towns are damaged or destroyed, with nearly the entirety of Doron Baga, the larger town, destroyed. According to Amnesty International Nigeria researcher Daniel Eyre, eyewitnesses said the militants went house-to-house, dragging out the young men of fighting age and killing them in the streets. His report said the situation is becoming more violent as the Nigerian national election draws closer, and that efforts to stop the insurgents have been rendered futile by widespread government and military corruption.
The BBC noted the difficulty in discovering accurate numbers of dead. The Nigerian government itself claimed that only 150 people were killed in Baga. But the BBC Hausa language service in Nigeria quoted Musa Alhaji Bukar, a senior government official, saying that the towns are now “virtually non-existent,” that they have been “burnt down.”
This January is not the first time Baga has been a target in the war between the Nigerian army and Boko Haram. In April 2013, the war killed nearly 200 and destroyed over 2,000 homes. Boko Haram – the name means roughly “western education is forbidden” – was founded in 2002, probably funded through Al Qaeda. It was finally declared a terrorist organization by the US State Department in 2013. But this was not before thousands of people had already been killed, displaced, and enslaved. The BBC says that since their establishment, over 3 million people have been affected by their aggression.
Although they have been slaughtering, raping, enslaving, and bombing their way into power in northern Nigeria since 2002, it was not until April 2014 that the group really caught the attention of the international news media when it was reported that they had “kidnapped” 200 school girls. This caught Western media attention at the time, and resulted in a flash of interest that peaked in April 2014 with a “selfie” style photo of Michelle Obama holding a sign saying “Bring back our girls,” that went viral for about five minutes on Facebook. Boko Haram has been targeting schools and killing and abducting students as a systematic war strategy since 2010.
Since the girls fell off the western world’s attention span, most remain “missing.” Boko Haram released photos of them as Islamic slaves and they are believed to have been given to Boko Haram militants as war prizes (called “wives” by the BBC), a practice that has been common in Islamic warfare for centuries. The “bride price” for the girls, paid to their Boko Haram abductors, is thought to have been about $10.00 US each.
The reason the western secular political world wants to pretend Baga didn’t happen is that it was unequivocally, inarguably, indisputably, and unambiguously an attack by Islamic militants for Islamic reasons against people the Islamists thought were insufficiently Islamic. The reaction to the Charlie Hebdo killings means that, whatever the Jihadists thought they were doing, they are now being promoted as “martyrs” to European hyper-secularism. Whereas in Baga there was no chance of a massive re-branding as an attack on “freedom of speech,” or any of the other popular secularist moral dogmas.
There was nothing, in fact, but a lot of dead people killed in ugly, ugly ways. Christians killed for being Christian; Muslims for being the wrong kind of Muslim. Fathers killed for refusing to give up their wives and daughters as sex slaves. Young men for not wanting to join the Islamists’ cause.
People have started talking about the Charlie Hebdo killings in the sort of language usually reserved for religious martyrdom. But what is being buried in silence is the uncomfortable fact that the civilized world is being reintroduced to an ancient, deadly threat that hates us not because of those high-sounding Enlightenment secular principles but for our putative, and often energetically denied Christianity. They are both an immediate physical threat, and an unbearable reminder of what we have thrown away.