“We are dealing with a group that has lost all rationality and has an insatiable desire to kill people," an archbishop says.
Abuja/Aleteia (Aleteia.org/ar) – In the aftermath of the continuous attacks by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram, bishops in Nigeria are asking for military assistance from Western governments and for the entire world to join them in prayerful solidarity.
In recent weeks, Boko Haram has captured approximately 80 people in Cameroon, but ended up releasing 24 of them. Likewise, the group has taken control of the city of Monguno, which has a population of more than 100,000. The city is located approximately 85 miles to the northeast of Maiduguri, capital city of Borno State in Nigeria, which has recently been attacked by Boko Haram on two different occasions.
Bishop Oliver Doemi of Maiduguri, in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, after a week of ongoing attacks by militants on his city, said, “The West must deploy security and ground forces in order to contain and repel Boko Haram. We are in desperate need of a coordinated military campaign.”
Much of Maiduguri’s lands are now in the hands of Boko Haram, which destroyed 50 churches. Likewise, a number of churches were abandoned, and 20 out of the 46 priests in the diocese have been displaced.
Nigerian National Security Advisor Sambo Dasuki said that Nigeria and its neighbors are in “good condition” to fight Boko Haram, and that assistance from the United Nations or African Union is unnecessary.
Bishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos stated for Vatican Radio that he “is extremely surprised” by Dasuki’s assurances, “because people are still getting killed or are being displaced. The government has been unable to sufficiently quell the violence. I believe that we need international assistance.”
Bishop Doemi added that the destruction of Baga on January 7 has revealed the “ineptitude” of the Nigerian Army. He further stated that he is calling for the dismissal of senior officers who have failed to carry out their duties correctly as “a lesson to others.” He followed by saying that, “Some of them are members of Boko Haram and have already escaped. Likewise, there are many Boko Haram sympathizers.”
The attacks during the weekend have been repelled by government forces, and the curfew that lasted for 24 hours has been relaxed. As a result of the attacks the city’s hospitals have become overwhelmed by casualties. Also, thousands of those who have been displaced from other regions are fleeing to Borno.
Archbishop Kaigama has declared the situation “very dangerous and extremely worrisome."
"Once Maiduguri falls, the rest of the regions will most assuredly fall with ease,” the archbishop said. He stated that military intervention is what is needed, not diplomacy. “We are dealing with a group that has lost all rationality and has an insatiable desire to kill people. Whether Christians or Muslims, the group kills without distinction.”
He further indicated with regards to dialogue that it is “impossible to talk under these kinds of circumstances.”
Elections are scheduled to take place on February 14, despite the fact that Dasuki has requested that it be postponed. Goodluck Jonathan, who has been president since 2010, is engaged in an electoral battle against Muhammad Buhari.
The Archbishop expressed his regret that Nigerian politics “are not used for their intended purpose. Thus, most of our politicians do not view public or Nigerian interests as a priority. Rather, they only look out for themselves and their position in authority as a priority. We hope that this will change.”
Furthermore, the bishop called for unity among Nigerians, saying that “when we lack political and religious unity and morality, then it becomes easy for Boko Haram to infiltrate the country and implement its immoral desires.” He indicated that the same kind of solidarity that was witnessed in France after the Charlie Hebdo attacks is needed in his country.
“What is needed in Nigeria is to move beyond politics and the narrow boundaries of religious and ethical tendencies and hold fast to public interests. We need to speak out against evil, terrorism and brutality. We need to come together as a united people. This is what we want now.”
Boko Haram, which means “western education is forbidden” was formed in 2009 and hopes to impose Sharia Law on Nigeria. The group targets security forces, politicians, Christian minorities, Muslims and moderates in northern Nigeria where the majority of the population is Muslim.
A state of emergency was announced in Borno in March of 2013 and in the neighboring states of Yobe and Adamawa. The United States designated Boko Haram a foreign terrorist organization after human rights and Christian groups called for this to happen.
Boko Haram has killed thousands since 2009 in its attacks and at least 4000 in 2014 according to a human rights organization. Meanwhile, at least another 1.5 million have been displaced.
Bishop Doemi added that “the threat that we face will take the Church into a future that is extremely grim. Many of our members have fled and others killed. In some areas there are no longer any Christians. However, the Church will remain strong and many of our people have returned after Nigerian soldiers have regained control of the area. The thing that is most important is prayer in behalf of our people.”
He concluded by saying that, “We know that the people are praying for us and we are extremely grateful. I want the people to pray unto Mary, Mother of God, to uphold our cause. Thus, our faith will be sufficient in the blessed Virgin.”
This article originally appeared at Aleteia’s Arabic site and was translated by Donald Puhlman.