Boko Haram: African Christian leaders fear military overreaction could lead to civilian deaths

(AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

A pan-African conference of Christian leaders in Ghana has heard a call for military restraint in dealing with Nigerian terror group Boko Haram to avoid creating further injustice and civilian deaths.

Jerry Gana, a former Nigerian cabinet minister, told the African Biblical Leadership Initiative in Ghana that Boko Haram was giving Nigeria hell. But he warned that both the military and ordinary Nigerians should avoid overreacting and making matters worse.

"When it comes to peacekeeping, Nigeria has an army that is tested in battle and a record that is unbeaten in Africa. It is tempting to go there and just finish them, but not only will you face the judgment of God, but the Criminal Court in the Hague will say you have committed crimes against humanity."

Mr Gana said Nigeria really should have seen the insurgency coming. "We should have known, because over the years a group of young people were neglected. Many were sent away from their families to Koranic schools, hundreds of kilometres away. Many were raised on the streets. They didn't have the care of mothers to inculcate values and discipline.

"Years later, these young men who were neither cared for nor educated, have become vulnerable and have turned to violence. They don't know much about education, so they say 'Boko Haram' – Western education is sinful. What started as a small thing has blossomed into something much bigger. Today, Boko Haram is well-funded.'

Given the growing insecurity, vigilantism in Nigeria is on the rise. Many ordinary Nigerians are becoming frustrated and prepared to take the law into their own hands. "What do we do?" asked Mr Gana. "Do we turn the other cheek, or do we go over to evil and fight force with force, then when we have finished, repent?

"I want to assure those who are frustrated that not only is our God real, he is powerful, and when he decides to move these problems will be a thing of the past. Pray that our young people will not be frustrated and just pray that evil will be defeated."

Delegates at ABLI stood to pray for the release of the abducted schoolgirls in Chibok being held by Boko Haram.