Jack McCaslin is a research associate for Africa policy studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC.
An article from Fox News recently called attention to the killing of Christians in Nigeria by comparing it to the deadly Easter Sunday suicide bombings of churches and hotels in Sri Lanka. According to the article, the attacks “highlight the dangers that remain from asymmetric terrorism and violence against Christians in ethnically and religiously divided societies.” However, linking these tragedies to each other and to a perceived global trend of violence against Christians mischaracterizes the nature of the conflicts in Nigeria.
The appropriateness of a comparison between Sri Lanka and Nigeria is not clear. Their ethnic make-up, social statistics, and post-colonial experiences are vastly different. Not least, Christians and Muslims are a tiny minority in Sri Lanka, a predominately Buddhist country, while in Nigeria, Christians and Muslims each constitute about half of the population. Identifying the perpetrators of atrocities in both countries is difficult. Although the Islamic State has claimed responsibility, it is not clear what its role was in the Sri Lanka bombings or, for that matter, what its role is in northern Nigeria.
With respect to Nigeria, Fox cites the recent killing of eleven and the wounding of thirty in Gombe. A police officer got into an argument with a procession of children during Easter activities, which reportedly led him to drive into it. It is not clear what the police officer’s motives were; Boko Haram is active in Gombe but it seems that they were not involved.