A Catholic bishop responsible for the area worst affected by Boko Haram has described the desperate needs of those who have fled the terrorist group – hitting out at the government for its failure to protect citizens.
Responding to an urgent request from Bishop Oliver Doeme of Maiduguri in north-east Nigeria, Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need has just approved £35,500 in aid for refugees who fled attacks by the Islamist terrorists in northern Nigeria.
Following Boko Haram’s attacks on towns and villages in the northeast, thousands of Internal Displaced People (IDP) – including the very young and the elderly – are living in mountain caves or in the forest.
Others are being looked after by friends and relatives in Maiduguri, Mubi and Yola.
Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Doeme stressed the urgency of the situation.
He said: “People are dying every day and in most cases with no one to bury them decently, they are left to rot. Their homes and properties looted. They have become slaves and prisoners in their fatherland.
“Here is a government that cannot safeguard the lives of its citizens and indeed life has become so cheap that it can be wasted any moment.”
Bishop Doeme described reports of the Nigerian Army fleeing, and asking civilians to do the same, when faced with Boko Haram troops.
The prelate added: “We used to think that salt is the cheapest commodity in the market, well, life is cheaper now especially in the Northeastern part of Nigeria.”
ACN’s latest help will support the diocese’s efforts providing food, water, shelter and medical help.
But Bishop Doeme hit out at the government for failing to provide the IDPs with these basics.
He said: “Given the political situation in the country, the funds meant for the victims of terrorism very seldom reach the actual people on the ground.
“The Church has been making efforts to offer as much help as possible. The diocese of Maiduguri has given some relief materials to over 1,500 IDPs and it has joined hands with the Yola diocese to assist those who have taken refuge there.”
“In the spirit of ecumenism, we have even assisted refugees in Maiduguri who are mostly Christians from other church denominations”.
But the Church has been badly hit by the crisis and is financially stretched because of its help for those who fled Boko Haram.
Bishop Doeme said: “We are in dire need of external assistance to help alleviate the difficult situation of the refugees, especially of the children who, out of school and vulnerable to diseases, face an uncertain future”.
Maiduguri has been the diocese worst hit by the Boko Haram attacks.
The three Northern Eastern Nigerian states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa have been at the centre of Boko Haram’s activities – and Maiduguri Diocese covers two and half of these states.
Bishop Doeme stressed that both Muslims and Christians have been affected by Boko Haram.
But he added that there is “[A] religious under-tone to this whole mess. We might shy away from it, we may be silent and unable to speak up or speak out now against the plan to Islamise the northeast and eventually Nigeria.
“But what we are witnessing in Northern Adamawa is a clear confirmation and the unfolding of this agenda.
“Many young people were forcefully taken and conscripted into the Boko Haram and are currently receiving training in the captured mobile base in Limankara.
“Women who could not escape were forced to convert to Islam and married out to the terrorists.
“Some of the elderly who cannot escape are being killed, some are left to die from hunger and starvation.
“This is the fate of every single town or village that has fallen into their hands. Killings, destruction, looting, forced marriage, forced recruitment or conscription, forced conversion to Islam and mounting of their flags and declaration of Shari‘a or caliphate mark their activities.”
Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN)