The year 2014 saw 32,658 people killed in terrorist attacks, an increase of 80% compared to the previous year – a rise largely fuelled by the rise of Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria and Boko Haram in Nigeria, according to the Global Terrorism Index.
The report, published on 17 November by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), showed that the great majority (78%) of 2014’s terrorist killings were recorded in just five countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria. Most of these took place in Iraq – at 9,929, this was the highest number of terrorist deaths to have ever been recorded in one country.
In 2014, IS militants advanced rapidly across Iraqi territory, expelling the Christian population from the city of Mosul and the Nineveh plains. In 2003, the Christian population in Iraq stood at 1.56 million whereas today there are fewer than 300,000 Christians remaining in the country.
In this sense, Iraq is representative of a clear trend highlighted by the report – that is, the greater the existence of terrorism, the greater the number of refugees and internally displaced people. Of eleven countries that recorded more than 500 deaths due to terrorism, ten had the highest levels of refugees and migration in the world.
The report also recorded an increase of over 300% in the number of terrorist killings in Nigeria in 2014 compared to the previous year, with 6,644 deaths at the hands of Boko Haram, mostly in the country’s north-east, and 847 deaths by Fulani militants, mainly in the Middle Belt.
In 2013, 80 killings by Fulani were recorded, and there were over ten times as many in 2014. Already this year, Barnabas has reported numerous raids by Fulani Muslims on Christian villages in Nigeria’s central states. Nigeria’s political authorities frequently downplay the underlying religious motivations for these attacks, blaming them instead on ethnic tensions and land disputes.
But it was the sheer scale of the violence perpetrated by Nigeria’s Islamist group, Boko Haram, in 2014 that made it the world’s deadliest terrorist group that year. Boko Haram pledged its allegiance to IS in March 2015, an alliance that was accepted by the caliph in an audio message that announced “the good news of the expansion of the caliphate to west Africa”.
The group mainly targets churches, predominantly Christian villages, Western-style educational establishments, and Western political institutions in north-eastern Nigeria. A raid on the Christian village of Dille, in Borno state, led to the deaths of 29 people on 27 July this year.
But raids across the border into the Far North of Cameroon, have left Christians extremely vulnerable to attack there too. “Fear and psychosis dominate the inhabitants,” a Cameroonian Christian leader told Barnabas. “Police checks multiply and harden, economic and trade activities are idle, children under twelve are not allowed to go out into the streets, and traffic must stop earlier in the evening.”
According to Steve Killelea, executive chairman of the IEP, there are around 530 terrorist groups in the world, 33 of which surfaced last year.
Christians are frequently the target of terrorist activity. Many terrorist attacks occur away from the publicity of the Western media channels, and our brothers and sisters are suffering unimaginable horror in many parts of the world, their stories largely untold. Barnabas Fund is committed to providing practical aid and relief to Christians all over the world who suffer for their faith.