How to fashion a mature, responsible, effective and long-term response to Boko Haram?
This is the radical Islamist terrorist group that claimed responsibility for the bombing of 5 Roman Catholic churches in Nigeria on Christmas Day, killing at estimated 39 and injuring dozens more.
One Christian man on the scene, in a video broadcast by Detroit Public Television, shouted, "They kill Christians on Christmas Day...I am not going to take it any more!"
The Pope called the attacks "absurd" and in an address on Boxing Day said he was "one" with the victims of the heinous attack.
Other political leaders around the world condemned the attacks.
Linked to the Salifists, the same word used to describe the radical Islamists vying for power in Egypt, this religious scourge has to be neutralized.
One scholar who has been researching the group, indicated that the people of the northern part of Nigeria are very poor, without work and without hope. Interviewed on PBS, the professor from California indicated that the attacks are as much against the current political regime for failing to provide adequate support for those living in the North, and for inappropriate security measures, given that the leader of the north was defeated by the current president of Nigeria in the country's last elections.
So, is this assault on Roman Catholics really a religious war, primarily a religious war, or only secondarily a religious war? Are the political overtones of the attacks enough to neutralize the response of that lone Christian male say he was not going to take it any longer?
This is the second Christmas that Boko Haram has successful attacked Roman Catholic churches, and last August the group attacked the United Nations headquarters in the Nigerian capital.
I am not a Roman Catholic. There is much about the Roman Catholic church with which I cannot agree. However, their right, along with the right of all others to pursue their religious practices and convictions is something for which all of us will take action to defend and to protect. Religious persecution, whether it be of Christians, or of Jews, or of Muslims, or any of the other 9000 faiths that are practicing throughout the world, is a form of hatred, bigotry and violence that none of us should have to face.
Currently, the Salifists seek to impose Sharia Law on Nigeria, against the will of the Christians living in the southern part of that country.They say that the violence will not stop unless and until Sharia Law has been imposed, and the results of previous elections, including democracy itself is replaced.
Such a motive drives many of the other faces and bodies of Islamic radicals around the world.
It is such a motive that requires religious leaders of all faiths to bring to the consciousness of their faith leaders. It is such a motive that must be openly debated, confronted and vigorously defeated in every country in which the radical Islamists proposed to impose their will. Christians, especially those of a progressive and tolerant and moderate strain, have to re-examine their propensity for peace at all costs, in the light of these massacres, and reconsider their positions of full acceptance of the demand for Sharia Law.
This is not a conflict to which there will be an easy or quick resolution.
This is not a conflict to which anyone of sound mind, spirit and body would rush to engage.
However, it is a conflict that faces the world, including the potential annihilation of the Jewish state from the world map, that no Christian can legitimately afford to walk away from, and to leave to the wisdom, grace, tolerance and love of God, however, that God is envisaged.
It is precisely my faith and the right to practice that faith that drive me to ask these questions and to bring to the fore the global need for political, religious, academic and non-governmental agencies to engage this debate.
Hundreds, if not thousands, and perhaps millions of lives could be at stake. While the groups like Boko Baram are still small, they are virulent, committed, focused, funded and determined to achieve their goal.
To regard them as irrelevant, silly, absurd, and somewhat immature would be a grave mistake. They are a cancerous tumour on the safety, security and level of religious tolerance and "live-and-let-live" approach that has attended relations between various religious groups for decades.
It is not only lives that could be and will be lost; it is a legacy and a tradition and a history of religious tolerance that is at stake, and that achievement, albeit not perfect, is more than worth sustaining, enhancing and leaving as a legacy for our grandchildren and their heirs.
Virulent hatred, bigotry and contempt from any religious group is unacceptable, no matter the location of the bloodshed. Stopping this cancer may take all of us, but stopping it is certainly worthy the most valiant effort and commitment from all of us. And the clock continues to tick.