Boko Haram Likely To Increase Assault On Christians, Others.

On March 3, Boko Haram published a video showing the beheading of two spies. It was the first time Boko Haram sent out such a video. Ashagrie, a persecution analyst for Open Doors' World Watch List Research team, comments: "The act indicates that Boko Haram might be trying to incorporate itself into Islamic State. According to reports, Islamic State supporters are already calling Boko Haram the 'Islamic State of Africa.'"

The video was posted online and seemed to have borrowed certain elements from productions of beheadings by Islamic State.
Ashagrie notes: "Although the religious affiliation of the two men was not mentioned, it is very likely that they were either Christians or Muslims not following Boko Haram's instructions. A chilling reminder of Boko Haram's stance on them can be what Boko Haram's leader stated last year referring to the 200 kidnapped school girls from Chibok: 'Our hostages are Christians or corrupted Muslims who follow the Christian way.' In any case, Boko Haram's increasing affiliation with Islamic State combined with the fact that it is expanding its reach beyond Nigeria, is an enormous threat for Christians in the region. They might be facing a life of extreme pressure and captivity resembling the lives of Christians in the IS-controlled areas in Iraq and Syria."

Ashagrie says there could be "dire consequences for the persecuted Church - continuing massive displacement as well as the risk of being caught in the crossfire of army troops fighting Boko Haram. Displacement is already happening; there is a massive refugee movement going on Nigeria. Tens of thousands of Northern Nigerians, the majority of them being Christians, are reported to be displaced.

"Moreover, the African Union is planning an offensive against Boko Haram. Christians could be easily caught in-between and might already be leaving their homes to escape the fighting. It is imperative that we are ready to stand firm together with Christians in Nigeria and surrounding countries to meet the challenge and impending crisis of Boko Haram violence.

"As one of the voices for the persecuted Church in northern Nigeria, Open Doors will be at the frontline of collecting and reporting about incidents against Christians and bringing the story on persecution in Nigeria to the attention of the word.

"Moreover, Christians should get ready to meet the challenge of a looming humanitarian crisis in Nigeria and surrounding countries. We should be ready to support the huge numbers of Christians that are displaced due to faith-related violence; to provide shelter and food. And last but not least: we should continue to raise awareness on what's happening in Africa. While Islamic State is expanding its reach in the Middle East, Boko Haram and other radical Islamist groups are doing a similar thing in Nigeria and other African countries."

Also, Boko Haram could up its attacks in the next two weeks with the delayed presidential elections rescheduled for March 28. Nigeria is ranked No. 10 on the Open Doors 2015 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians. Last year a total of 2,484 Christians were martyred in Nigeria, the highest total of any country in the world.

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