‘The Next Jihad’ authors talk religion, Christian persecution in Nigeria with Nick Cannon

Nick Cannon hosts “Cannon’s Class” with Rabbi Abraham Cooper and the Rev. Johnnie Moore | YouTube

Television host Nick Cannon interviewed the authors of The Next Jihad, a book that details the attacks on Nigerian Christian communities by jihadist terror groups and radical Fulani herders that have led to the displacement of millions and the slaughter of thousands. 

Rabbi Abraham Cooper and the Rev. Johnnie Moore wrote The Next Jihad: Stop the Christian Genocide in Africa to bring greater awareness to the persecution Christians are facing in Nigeria.

Cooper has been a longtime activist for Jewish and human rights causes worldwide and met and co-authored this book with Moore after he learned about the latter’s work to rescue 149 Iraqi Christians from the Islamic State terrorist group in the Nineveh Plains in 2015. 

When they met after learning about each other’s work, Cooper told Moore they needed to travel to Nigeria to report on the mass killings happening there. 

In the interview posted on his YouTube channel Tuesday, Cannon suggested that some Nigerians might wonder who Moore and Cooper were to enter the country and report on atrocities happening there when they weren’t from Nigeria.

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“When you think about the idea of colonialism, its roots, its origin, a lot of people feel, the people of the land feel defensive, that people have stolen from them in the past,” he said, referring to Nigerians.

“That as we sit here, as people who are not Nigerian, they are like, “What do they know? Who are they to come into our land, report on what we see, and go back and write a book to talk about all the issues? Why isn’t there a Nigerian person sitting there and talking about what’s happening? Why are there two white guys and this guy from television sitting there and talking about what’s happening?” Cannon asked. 

Moore, a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and president of the Congress of Christian Leaders, said Cannon’s point was “valid.” He then noted that Christianity first arrived in Nigeria with a former slave who wanted to share the Gospel with his countrymen.

“Some people would say that’s not a good thing,” Cannon asserted.

During the hourlong interview, Cooper and Moore shared stories of how Nigerian Christians have faced terrible persecution and have not abandoned their beliefs.

As an example, they mentioned Nigerian Christian Leah Sharibu, who has been held captive by the terrorist group Boko Haram for three years because she refuses to give up her faith in Jesus.

Moore explained that Christians in Nigeria face persecution from three groups. 

“It’s Boko Haram, it’s ISIS in West Africa, and there are Fulani militants. And we’re careful about this because the Fulani are the largest tribe in Africa, there are 17 million Fulani in Nigeria. There vast majority of Fulani are just wonderful people. There’s a small group of people, who inspired by Boko Haram and inspired by others, are raiding Christian villages, determined to get rid of every Christian in the country and every Muslim that stands in their way,” he said. 

In their book, they tell the story of a Christian priest in training named Michael who preached to his terrorist captors, telling them about Jesus. Because he did so, they killed him.

Cooper, director of the global social action agenda of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading Jewish human rights organization with over 400,000 family members, said the stories of the mass killings of Christians in Nigeria by radical Muslim extremists resembled stories of the Holocaust.

“[Nigerian] students in a college dorm were woken up in the middle of the night. And they were told, ‘could you say something from the Quran?’” said Cooper. “And if they couldn’t, they were killed on the spot. They would pull people out of cars. And it reminded me in some ways about what the Nazis did about selecting.”

In the Holocaust, Nazis would test people to determine if they were Jewish, then kill them, he said. In Nigeria, Christians face a similar test.

“I would say the pen of a scholar is much more powerful than the blood of a martyr,” said Cannon, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in Theology and Divinity at Howard University School of Divinity. “To me, humanity outshines religion every time. If we’re keeping score, and I’m talking from Abrahamic faiths to even beyond, religion has done a lot of damage to this world and then humans have to come and fix it.”

Cooper said in response to Cannon’s condemnation of religion that many of the bloodiest genocides of the 20th century have been led by people who hated God.

“Stalin, the Soviet Union, Mao, Hitler, those were all people who were not motivated by religion, they were against religion,” he stressed.

Moore urged the show’s viewers to turn their compassion into action that helps Christians who are being persecuted in Nigeria because they serve God.

“Compassion requires action. It’s not just enough to say that you care about something. You have to do something about it. You don’t have to take on the whole problem yourself. No individual can change the world. But you sure can change a lot more than you’re trying to do.”

Earlier this month, Nigeria’s International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law released a report that documented the killing of 34,400 Christians by radical Islamists since 2009. 

In 2019, the Jubilee Campaign, which advocates on behalf of religious minorities across the globe and successfully petitioned the International Criminal Court to indict Boko Haram for their killings across northeastern Nigeria, said the slaughter of Christians in Nigeria has reached the threshold of genocide.

Cannon stirred controversy in July when he said on his program that Jews and white people are closer to animals than human beings. 

“The only way they can act is evil,” he said on his podcast, referring to people with light skin. “They have to rob, steal, rape, kill and fight in order to survive. So they’re the ones closer to animals, they’re the ones that are actually the true savages.”

Although he apologized for his statements about Jews, he has yet to apologize for his comments about white people.

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