Discusses Boko Haram and the cultural imperialism of the West
ROME—In this far reaching, follow-up interview to a story Aleteia brought you in February, Bishop Emmanuel Badejo, who serves as Director of Communications for the African Bishops, discusses with Aleteia the latest developments regarding Boko Haram, and his fellow Nigerian bishop’s claim that he had vision of Jesus Christ, who told him the terrorist organization would be defeated through the power of the rosary.
He also offers his perspective on Hillary Clinton’s statement last week that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” for the sake of giving women access to “reproductive health care and safe childbirth”; and calls the US administration’s recent appointment of its first “LGBT” envoy evidence of a growing “dictatorship of the minority”.
Your Excellency, let’s begin close to home. In our conversation in mid-February, you spoke at length about the nature and activities of Boko Haram. At the time, you stated that you wouldn’t be surprised if there would be an attempt made by the terrorists from different parts of the North of Africa and the Arab world — ISIS, Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram — to link up, and that this needs to be prevented.
Since then, Boko Haram has in fact pledged allegiance to ISIS. What can you tell us about recent developments in the fight against Boko Haram in Nigeria?
It all sounds like prophecy now, but it was quite easy for me to see at the time. Evil tends to find strength in other evil. I was sure that Boko Haram, ISIS, and Al Qaida were going to somehow try to link up resources and strength to do more harm than they’ve been doing, because they’re simply evil. I was wondering why that was so difficult for the powers that pretend to want to help us to see.
What I said in the February interview about the current US administration actually making aids and grants to Africa conditional on our accepting anti-life values seemed absurd to some ears at the time. But this is exactly what has been happening, and I think they are coming out even more in the open now.
I heard it in a radio discussion, and I agreed with it, although it sounded absurd. For some reason, a week after our interview, there were so many reports in the Nigerian newspapers and media that America was actually helping us technically. I don’t know who was behind it.
The hope we have now is that we have had our elections. Thank God, they were largely successful, and we are hoping that the approach will be different.
Six weeks before the elections, the government stepped up activities against Boko Haram. And the bombing and the killing has largely diminished. In many parts of the north of Nigeria where you couldn’t go before, now you can hear a pin drop. People are returning to their homes, and Boko Haram is largely consigned to the borders of Nigeria.
To what do you principally attribute the positive shift?
For one thing, the government that is outgoing needed to win elections, and needed to convince Nigerians that it could do what it had never been able to do for 6 years.
As the elections approached, the government communicated their desire to postpone them by 6 weeks. Of course, this met with great disapproval. One of the reasons the government gave for the postponement was to have time to rout Boko Haram and ensure safe elections.
There followed a massive build up of arms and alleged mercenaries fighting for the purpose. Surprisingly it has been effective. The government managed to do in 6 weeks what it could not do in 6 years.
Secondly, I think that Boko Haram had caught the Nigerian government in bed, so to speak. For many years, the Nigerian army had not been actively engaged in combat. Corruption was a large part of the problem, and so it was an army that had obsolete equipment and undertrained officers. The army itself has admitted this several times. Therefore, it took time to prepare and obtain the necessary equipment.
Much has changed now. The Nigerian army recovered so much territory from Boko Haram, arrested so many and freed up so much space that people are able to continue activities in very many areas. In fact, in many areas where we thought elections could never be held, elections we successfully held.
Last week, for the first time in 6 years, the army actually entered into the dreaded Sambisa forest to confront Boko Haram, a feat considered unimaginable before now. So there is success against Boko Haram at the moment.
However, Boko Haram is not dead. And the danger is particularly acute given that ISIS has linked up with Boko Haram. In fact, it would seem that Boko Haram has modified its name now to relate to ISIS. However, I think that if the civilized world decides that terrorism is going to be eliminated, it can be eliminated, if there is sincerity and commitment.
One of your brother bishops — Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme of Maiduguri, Nigeria — recently revealed that he had a vision of Jesus Christ, who told him that Boko Haram would be defeated through the power of the rosary. Your thoughts?
Bishop Oliver in my view has not said anything completely extraordinary, for two reasons.
First, the rosary has always been the strength of Catholic spirituality. Throughout Church history, the rosary has played a great role not only in bringing people closer to God, but also in giving them strength to conquer many wars, also in times of combat. Now, if you sit here to discredit what happened at Lepanto and other battles many years ago, you’ll have trouble convincing anyone that you have good reason to do so.
In the Marian centers of the world which have been approved by the Church — like Fatima and Lourdes — the rosary has always been recommended. Messages were given to people at these places that battles —whether spiritual, physical, or military — can be conquered through the power of the rosary.
Bishop Oliver said he had a religious experience. Religious experience is legitimate and one doesn’t need to be against it. I think very many people question this kind of thing because they have really, actually stopped believing actively in God.
We call Jesus ‘Emmanuel’. If he is ‘with us’ all the time, why can’t he show himself to us? And the fact that I have not had that kind of vision does not mean that Bishop Oliver cannot.
Religious experience is sacred. I have spoken to Bishop Oliver on the phone. We are quite close. I’ve been close to him because he and his people are on the front lines, and we try to support them in whatever way we can. I spoke to him on the phone and he is convinced about what he saw.
I am particularly happy that when he said Jesus handed him a sword, this sword became a rosary. Thank God. Better the rosary than the sword. Christianity has always fought its battles by prayers, not by arms. And so what Bishop Oliver said is, I believe, very consonant with Catholic theology and Catholic practice.
I myself have contributed along with a religious organization in distributing about 1 million rosaries in Nigeria, and I believe that the rosary has the power to help change situations, and that includes the situation with Boko Haram.
Turning to other international issues: Last Thursday at the 6th annual Women in the World Summit, Hillary Clinton said: “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” for the sake of giving women access to “reproductive health care and safe childbirth.” Your Excellency, what are your thoughts — as a Catholic bishop and specifically a Catholic bishop of Africa — on the former US Secretary of State’s remarks?
My personal opinion of Hillary Clinton is: She is seeking election in America so you can expect that, like most politicians, she will say just about anything to pander to the thoughts of whatever audience she is speaking to.
So I really think that Hillary Clinton is just speaking for votes, rather than speaking for reason.
I believe there are three groups of people in this world: those who believe in God, those who do not believe in God, and those who think they are gods. Hillary Clinton I think is one of those who thinks she is a god. And I’m not obliged to believe that.
From the way she spoke, people like herself very clearly don’t want to hear anything about God. Even if they say they believe in God, they really don’t.
It’s evident even in her language: she talks about “deep seated cultural codes”. I feel she’s gotten too wrapped up in technology and has stopped realizing that there are values, there are things that are innate to people, that are not just “codes” that can be taken up and thrown out.
We talk about the dignity of life, the sanctity of life, etc. Is she saying they ought to be changed? Well, I don’t know what she is talking about. What are human beings going to change to?
We are saying that there is something innate in us as Africans that makes us Africans.
And I am saying that God, in His infinite wisdom — which I think might be a little bit more than Hillary Clinton’s — decided to create us in these forms to add to the beauty of his creation. So those who work to have one generalized, undifferentiated world certainly don’t know the meaning of beauty, which is found in variety, in color.
If these values are not precious to Hillary Clinton, I think she has no right at all to call for a change in religious values and religious beliefs.
She also called them “structural biases.” Again, that is a misuse of language. “Biases,” to many people, are the things that make them who they are.
So that’s as much importance as I attach to Hillary Clinton’s statement about cultural beliefs. It is my desire that the American people open their ears and their eyes and know exactly what kind of people are running to be the next President of the United States.
In February 2015 the Obama administration appointed Randy Berry as the first Special Envoy for the Human Rights of “LGBT” persons. What are your thoughts on the recent appointment, especially in light of your previous comments regarding a new “cultural imperialism” being carried out by the US administration in Africa?
I think the appointment of Randy [Berry] just shows how little the current US administration respects the democratic values it seems to preach, especially when they preach them abroad.
If the current American government is investing so much effort in appointing a special envoy to promote what it calls the “rights” of homosexuals and gays and the rest of it, as I have always said, I think there is a mix-up between what are actually “rights”, and what are behaviors. And human behaviors cannot be put on the same level as human rights.
We have a right to live. I do not think that homosexuals ought to be killed, by no means. Life is a basic human right. But the right to do things that are considered abnormal are not.
I do not think that homosexuals, as people, are evil people. But I do think that their activities are sinful and disordered. And if we invest so much money and effort into imposing the orientation of this minority — this particular minority — onto the entire world, then we are guilty of what I like to call a “dictatorship of the minority.” So where is democracy? How can America claim to be a champion of democracy in the world?
In any case, take for example something that is happening across the world in a different place. In recent months so many immigrants have been trying to get to Europe, to a better life, which by the way they have a right to, have been killed on the seas in Italy. Some have been killed in the desert, so many, tens of thousands.
Now, the United States and the countries of Europe have not felt any need to appoint a special envoy to help to protect the rights of these human beings who are dying just because they are looking for better opportunities. But the US administration is so concerned about imposing the “rights” of homosexuals on countries of the world that don’t consider these to be the values that they need.
Now if democracy is supposed to be a system that makes available the best for the most, without actually crushing the minority, then where is the meaning of democracy in America?
So I question that. And I say that people ought to open their eyes to the cultural imperialism that America is promoting, and promoting so blatantly.
Diane Montagna is Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.