Just this past weekend, my family and I hosted a World Cup party. About 25 people crowded into my living room to enjoy the epic battle in which the U.S. Men’s National team fought against the highly-touted, Ronaldo-led squad from Portugal.
Yes, the last-second cross from Ronaldo to the head of Varela sent shockwaves down all 25 spines in the room, causing us—at least momentarily—to lose both our will and our ability to speak. But, all in all, we enjoyed the football, the food, the fellowship, and the fun of the World Cup event. Many people around the U.S. enjoyed similar parties in similar settings.
But World Cup parties played out differently in Nigeria. Nigerians—including Nigerian Christians—also had World Cup viewing parties. Sadly, in the Mubi area of Adamawa state, Muslim extremists bombed a party of football watchers gathered (just as we were) to enjoy this global spectacle that, by design, hopes to bring the world together.
According to this Reuters report, the attack left 14 people dead and 12 injured, some of those are critically wounded. Most people suspect Boko Haram, a terrorist group working to rid Nigeria of all but the purist form of Islam. In April of this year, this terrorist group kidnapped 200 schoolgirls possibly to keep as brides for Muslim men. The girls are still being held. And, since the kidnapping, Boko Haram has killed more than 500 innocent civilians in settings similar to World Cup watching parties. The majority of those being targeted by Boko Haram are Christians.
We have taken much for granted in the U.S. Even while our freedoms are shrinking daily, we still have not come to a place where bombs are expected at “futbol” parties. We can be thankful for that, of course, but we also can be more sober about the world in which we live.
Islam is a force of intolerance with no equal right now. A couple of Islam scholars I have read have argued that groups like Boko Haram spring up in countries where Islam is almost a majority. Their hope is that through violence and intimidation and an appeal to Islamic heritage they can tip the scales nationwide toward Islam and Sharia law.
I’m certainly no expert on these matters, but I will say that Nigeria fits that description. Nationwide, they are 50% Muslim and 50% Christian or traditional African religion. The area targeted in this recent attack is a Fulani area (I think). That would make sense because Boko Haram has been slaughtering Christians and any who don’t appear Muslim enough. The Fulani people, I believe, are mostly Muslim, but they hold to a tradition all their own.
Regardless of the particulars at play in Nigeria, the case is certain that it is not safe to be a Christian there, especially in the northern parts of the country like Adamawa state (where this attack occurred). Our brothers and sisters in Christ in Nigeria need our continued prayer and support. Our concern for humankind and for individual liberty calls us to care for the fate of the Fulani people in Nigeria, too.
To contemplate the reality that while we were joyfully watching a game for its entertainment value other people were being mercilessly slaughtered in the name of religious conformity is, at the very least, sobering. It is an almost unbearable reality. We can’t just ignore it for that would make us cold, indifferent, and almost culpable. We also can’t be debilitated by it. We must continue both to express our own freedom and work so others can enjoy theirs. Both in Nigeria and in California, people should be free to watch the World Cup together without fearing an Islamic invasion.
More thoughts about religious liberty
I truly hurt for our Brothers and Sisters over there, and in other parts of the world where they live in fear 24 hours a day that the next knock at the door may be the last thing they hear. We face mainly ridicule here and yes, its getting worse by the day it seems, but in the world they face so much more.