Do people join Boko Haram?
It is difficult to say, because we don’t really know who they are. They could be your neighbors; your friends across the road. I always say, "You know them only when they are dead—when they have blown themselves up as suicide bombers." They use nice cars because they want to be seen as respectable; then before you know it, there is an explosion.
Do you believe Boko Haram gets funding from abroad?
Both in and outside Nigeria there are serious sympathizers. Up to now our government has not been able not able to smoke them out, though. There should be ways to trace financing and other forms of support, but I don’t believe that our government is making this a top priority.
We hope that with the help of the international community they can stem the flow of weapons and funds coming in. But, contrary to my expectations, nothing much has happened, even in the wake of the abduction of the schoolgirls which made headlines around the world. Boko Haram is well trained and well supplied. Who is helping the organization? I do suspect foreign funding. But, despite lots of money spent by our government and the military, answers are still grossly lacking.
It seems Boko Haram has broadened its range of targets, to include moderate Muslims as well as state institutions across the board.
At first we thought that they were simply against Western education and wanted to propagate what they believed was the authentic message of Islam. Then they went after the government, and next came the churches. The attacks on churches have happened in many places, with the tragic loss of life, and they have continued to this day. We must not forget that Muslim places of worship have also been targets. The repeated attacks in Kano and Kaduna show that the fight has gone beyond the religions of Islam and Christianity. In fact, many Muslims and Christians of good will are speaking a common language now and are exploring ways to bring an end to this menace.
Are you afraid, personally?
Well, yes, it is normal to be afraid. But given my task, I have given up everything to serve God and his people. I don’t have a biological family, wife and children, any possession I can call my own. If I should lose my life in the process of defending people’s rights to freedom of worship and the unity of humanity, apart from my beloved pastoral collaborators and excellent people of goodwill (from various religious and ethnic backgrounds) I would leave behind, I have no other liabilities. While one does not court death, it is an inevitable end for all of us, including even for those who claim they are killing and bombing in the name of God. Certain as death will come, still, one is afraid of death, which is true for everybody.
Have you received any threats?
Thank God, no, but I know that my movements and activities and even my cell phone are being monitored. But since I plan no evil, encourage no evil or support no evil, I have nothing to hide.
What do you tell your priests and religious when it comes to coping with fear?
I go out. I never miss any public functions or ceremonies. That tells them that I am with them, and with the people. Even if violence takes place not far away, I go out in public, wearing my formal garb, to be present. Government officials stay away. I don’t a have security detail—that would be a magnet for the evildoers. The militants hate police. Plus, protecting myself would make me a prisoner—aside from the money we’d have to spend from our meagre resources. It would make the people afraid! Imagine if priests would go around with protection. We believe God is with us. We believe that we will triumph despite the machinations of the evildoers.