American faith leaders met with representatives of Nigerian communities devastated by Boko Haram and Fulani tribesmen as well as key figures within the Buhari administration as part of a fact-finding mission to investigate reports of escalating insecurity in the West African country.
Johnnie Moore, an evangelical communications executive and president of the Congress of Christian Leaders, and Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights group, traveled to Abuja on Feb. 17 and met with dozens of victims of terrorism from five different Nigerian provinces for three days.
“After our journey there, we want the world to know that you haven’t heard half of it,” the faith leaders said in a joint statement. “The terrorists’ aim is to ethnically cleanse northern Nigeria of its Christians and to kill every Muslim who stands in their way.”
In addition to victims, the two met with the chiefs of staff for both President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as part of their quest to determine the severity of the situation. They also met with four Muslim leaders.
Their trip came as thousands have been killed by Boko Haram (an Islamic militant group in Nigeria’s northeast with a splinter faction that has claimed allegiance to the Islamic State) and radical Fulani herdsmen who have in recent years increasingly raided predominantly Christian farming villages in the country’s Middle Belt.
Moore and Cooper stressed that if things “do not change immediately” portions of Nigeria and the broader Lake Chad region “may soon become the most dangerous place on the planet.”
“This portion of Africa will be ground zero for the next generation’s war on terrorism, and the humanitarian cost of letting these problems fester and multiply in the near term could result in disaster for much of Western Africa,” they said.
Moore, who also serves as a commissioner on the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, made the trip in his private capacity. He has long traveled the world to advocate for persecuted believers. Cooper, a longtime Jewish human rights activist, is the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and also the director of its global social action agenda.