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Boko Haram burned kids alive, killed 86

Kenyan soldiers pay their respects to fallen comrades at an interfaith memorial service honoring Kenyan soldiers killed while on peacekeeping duty in Somalia, attended by Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, and Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, at a military barracks in Eldoret, Kenya Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. In Nigeria Buhari faces the Boko Haram extremist insurgency while Mohamud's government in Somalia relies on foreign troops including Kenya's to protect against the Islamic extremists al-Shabab. (AP Photo/John Muchucha)Boko Haram insurgents killed at least eighty-six people this weekend, including a number of children. Reports indicate that the attack happened on Saturday night, right after evening prayers. Taking place outside the northeastern city of Maiduguri, a soldier at the scene reported to the AP that three female suicide bombers blew themselves up as part of the assault.

A resident noted: "We had just finished evening prayers when the gunmen came to our village and indiscriminately opened fire and set fire to homes." As chaos ensued, "They detonated two bombs, which added to our fright and confusion. Everybody fled into the bush from where we saw our homes burning." It is reported that, as people were running away, the three suicide bombers were running in. Out in the cold bush with no blankets and exposed to the elements, frightened villagers wondered internally about their safety and listened externally as Nigerian officials tried to tamp down this latest attack by this terrorist group.

Nigerian newspaper Vanguard reported that this latest attack happened after the government claimed these militants no longer had the means to carry out such an attack. In recent days, the military has been driving Boko Haram out of towns and villages and towards the outskirts. On the outskirts, officials believed, they could somewhat contain the group. They were wrong.

Boko Haram adds another tragedy to an already too long of list. Since 2009, this group has killed some 17,000 people and forced more than 2.6 million to flee their homes. In 2014 alone, the group killed 6,644 people, a 300 percent increase from the previous year. Their numbers are greater than ISIS. With an initial desire to impose strict sharia law in mainly Muslim northern region of Nigeria, Boko Haram has expanded outside Nigerian borders into Cameroon, Chad, and Niger.

Nigeria is Africa's most populous country and the seventh-most populous nation on earth, with 177 million residents. Though large, it is somewhat divided. The south tends to be wealthier and Christian, whereas the north is impoverished and Islam.

But outside of heinous actions, what is Boko Haram? The most commonly accepted translation of the name is: "Western education is forbidden." It could have a wider meaning though, since "boko" may also signify "Western fraud." However, as recent actions indicate, they want things done their way, including the meaning of their name. The group has said it wants to be known by a phrase that translates to "People Committed to the Prophet's Teachings for Propagation and Jihad."

While the Prophet initiated a religion called Islam, meaning "peace," the group has taken a radicalized approach to peaceful Islam. Founded in 2002, the group set up a mosque and Islamic school which have been used to recruit jihadists. At the school, these students are indoctrinated in a particular way of Islam that is highly influenced by Sayyid Qutb's Milestones.

They read the Qur'an through a particular lens. In the Qur'an: "Anyone who is not governed by what Allah has revealed is among the transgressors (5:44)." According to Jim Denison, radical Muslims interpret this saying in the Qur'an to mean "that leaders who do not govern by strict Sharia law are not true Muslims and must be overthrown."  Taking this excerpt, they believe it is imperative for the fullest expression of Islam to be demonstrated in order that people may see true Islam. People may either accept it for what it is, or reject it with full knowledge. A lukewarm response is not acceptable.

So what are we to make of this?

First, we mourn. At least eight-six innocent lives have been lost. One life lost is one too many. We must refrain from becoming numb to such stories, and refuse to allow these tragedies to become a part of the status quo. When we do nothing, we indirectly give them license to continue to do anything.

Second, while our reach and influence may hinder us from directly influencing Nigeria, we must resist joining their practice of closing off the mind. This is more than a spiritual war; it is also an intellectual battle. They are seeking to indoctrinate, but we must fight falsehood with truth. As John Milton said, "Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?"

Truth is both something acquired and something acted upon. It is not simply the acquisition of a set of claims, but rather the acting upon of those claims. In Milton's case, a wrestling match. Milton goes on to write:

"The end then of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him, as we may the nearest by possessing our souls of true virtue, which being united to the heavenly grace of faith makes up the highest perfection."

As those who have been set free by the truth (John 8:32), follow the truth (John 14:6), and seek to be a beacon of truth (Ephesians 4:15), may we not shy away from whatever battles are necessary. While every hill may not be worth fighting on, it is important to remember that we follow one that was willing to lay down his life on a hill for the sake of others.

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