Here is a text adapted from the pastorl letter of Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme of the Diocese of Maiduguri, Nigeria, which covers the part of the country hardest hit by Boko Haram.
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria, Nov. 6, 2014 — My dear people of God, priests, religious and the entire lay faithful of the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri, I extend my fraternal greetings to all of you especially at this trying moment in our life as a Church.
The menace of Boko Haram To say that we are experiencing a severe test of our faith in this diocese hardly requires an emphasis. We are thoroughly devasted by the Boko Haram attacks. Therefore as a Church, families and individuals, we are wounded, traumatized and devastated. Each of us is experiencing a lot of pains and anguish, because we have lost our dear ones, our property, our wealth and our church structures. At this time a lot of questions are being asked by many of us including myself: where is God? Has God abandoned us? Are we being punished because of our sins? How can God allow the agents of the devil to destroy his innocent children? Is God weak? Can evil triumph over good?
As people in flesh and blood it is okay to ask these questions. Even Jesus Christ while on the Cross asked his Father as to why he abandoned him. But did Jesus receive any response from his Father? No. It was the Father’s will that Jesus had to die on the cross in order to accomplish his mission – the salvation of mankind. And it was not until on the day of the resurrection that Jesus’ question was answered.
My dear people of God, we will not hear any response to our questions now, until God achieves his purpose through these our painful experiences. But for sure the ultimate result of our pains and anguish is for God’s name to be glorified and for our own purification and edification. Moreover, God does not need to take permission from us before he brings any experience into our lives be it joyful or sorrowful. And this is what makes him God. As human beings, we can never comprehend the ways of the Lord.
Keeping our Faith Alive My dear people, let us keep our faith alive. We should never get discouraged. Our faith should make us see beyond the immediate experience and look at the future – that is, after this temporal life with its pains and suffering, we shall share in the eternal glory of our Lord. And so we need to have unshakable faith in God despite what we are experiencing. I always tell you my people that there are two precious gifts of the Lord that on no account should we allow anybody to separate us from them. And these are our faith and our souls.
Be consoled my people:
The unshakable love of God My dear people, be consoled that the love of God for you and me is unshakable. What we are experiencing does not in any way imply that God is loving us less. It is in these sufferings that our Lord draws closer to us so that his tenderness and care will be felt the more. The Lord is assuring us that he will never let down any of us his children.
The Role of Mary our MotherMy brothers and sisters, be consoled that we have a mother who never fails. Mary our spiritual mother who stood by her Son during his passion even to the very time his body was taken down from the cross is standing by us in this trying moment of our lives. Our Mother Mary, whom the devil and his agents dread, is making it clear to us her children that this battle is her own. She has already begun the fight on our behalf and will fight until she wins.
Prayer remains the most powerful weapon. Be consoled my people, be consoled because we have the strongest weapon at our disposal, and that is P R A Y E R. We don’t have physical weapons such as armored tanks, APC, Jet fighters, rocket propellers, rocket launchers, AK47 among others. The enemies trust in these arms, but we in the Lord.
Therefore, do not grow weak in prayer; do not give up praying. This can be the devil’s strategy to cut the line of communication between you and your Lord. Jesus invites us to a life of constant prayer.
Draw closer to God My people, be consoled that God is there for us. And so a big lesson we are learning from this crisis is that we need to draw closer to God. We have sinned in many ways against God and against one another. This is the time for us to avoid all circumstance of sin which separate us from our God.
Praying for the forgiveness of the terrorists Again I say be consoled my dear people for the spirit of forgiveness God has implanted in our hearts. Forgiveness is the only thing we can give to the terrorists and their sponsors. Forgiveness in this instance is very difficult. But we must forgive, since our Lord Jesus forgave his executioners.
Victory is already in sight Be consoled my people because our victory is at the corner. Terrorism will certainly disappear from our environment. This is so because the ones that are with us are more than those that are with them. Rejoice my people because God the Father is with us; God the Son is with us; God the Holy Spirit is with us. Be consoled because our Mother Mary is with us. The Archangels and our patron angels are with us. The countless saints in heaven are with us. The modern martyrs, our brothers and sisters killed because of the persecution, have joined the triumphant army in heaven and are interceding for us daily.
Be consoled, for I, as your servant (bishop) am with you in spirit wherever you are, whether in the forests or mountains, or caves or bushes, towns or villages, I am therewith you sharing in your pains, troubles, anxieties and anguish.
And so be consoled and rejoice in the Lord my people for our victory is at hand. The enemy is about to be overthrown.
May Our Lady of Perpetual Help, be our Mother, our love, our refuge, and our rock.
May she continue to extend her maternal care toward us her children in this diocese. May she shield us from the snares of our foes.
This text was made available to Aid to the Church in Need, 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) www.acnmalta.org (Malta)