Like me, I am sure you have been overwhelmed by the international news reports of violent acts committed by religious extremists and terrorist organizations in the name of their god. Over 2,000 massacred in Baga, Nigeria. Over 1 million people displaced from their homes fleeing murder, rape, and abduction. In Iraq, there are reports of the mass executions of boys. Young girls are traded and gifted to militant group leaders. And hostages are beheaded or burned alive in horrific televised spectacles.
While these atrocities are happening an ocean away, for some members of our own community, these crimes against humanity are taking place in places they consider their first “home.” And while our government and media have maintained a laser focus on the activities of ISIS and other terrorist groups in the Middle East, groups like Boko Haram in Nigeria have killed, tortured, raped, and abducted thousands of people and garnered little international attention, except for the viral #bringbackourgirls social media campaign in response to the mass kidnapping of close to 300 Nigerian school girls last year.
The Inland Empire and Los Angeles have the highest concentration of Nigerians in Southern California. They are our neighbors and our friends. With the most recent massacre of several thousand in one city — Amnesty International initially stated that the number was too many to count and then reported 2,000 — I couldn’t help but think of the mass killings in Bosnia and Rwanda not too long ago. Our Nigerian-American community believes their issues are being marginalized by our government and their stories ignored by our mainstream media.
While our government does not have the resources or even the desire to serve as the world’s peacekeeper or the protector of human rights across the globe, we are well aware of the devastating consequences when we ignore such egregious offenses against humanity and unchecked terrorist activity. Boko Haram, in particular, has already been viewed as an example of how the threat of al Qaeda is spreading. I agree with California Rep. Barbara Lee who in our feature story this week on UC Riverside’s Nigerian Student Association warns, “we must redouble our efforts with the Nigerian government, the African Union and the United Nations to ensure peace, stability, security and the protection of human rights.”