A Nigerian bishop warned of great risk to all of Africa if Nigeria were to fall to Islamic extremism that has been causing an upsurge in violence in the region.
In an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Hyacinth Egbebo, administrator of the Apostolic Vicariate of Bomadi, said that local Christians are confronted by the growing threat of extremism. Radical Islamic sect Boko Haram has attacked various places of worship and killing many Christians, leading the U.S. to designate it a terrorist organization.
An estimated 1,000 Christians were killed in Nigeria in 2012 alone. Boko Haram was responsible for the deaths of roughly 700 Christians last year. “If Nigeria falls to Islamic extremists, all of Africa will be at risk,” Bishop Egbebo said.
The Nigerian prelate said that Boko Haram’s goal of imposing Sharia law in the country makes anyone opposed, particularly Christians who are associated with the West, a target for violence.
“That’s why Boko Haram is even attacking schools and killing children. These radicals believe that Western education should be forbidden—anything that builds up the Christian ethos,” he said.
“If they should overrun Nigeria, it will be a steppingstone to conquering smaller countries. There is a lot of support for Boko Haram from outside the country—otherwise the fact that they are so professionally trained and supplied cannot be explained. If they had simply been a homegrown organization, they would have been defeated by now.” Tensions have soared after the election of Goodluck Jonathan as president, a Christian from southern Nigeria.
Bishop Egbebo said that the terrorist organization is also targeting moderate Muslims who accept Christians, particularly in the South. “In the wake of the presidential election of a Christian from the south, there is palpable fear in Nigeria about political power shifting to the south, threatening the privileges of Muslim elites in the North, some of whom ascended to positions of power without being qualified whatsoever—simply because they were Muslim,” he said.
The bishop stressed the crucial role that Christians play in the country, who contribute to speaking truth and emphasizing the need for peace between Christians and Muslims. Bishop Egbebo called on Western countries to not turn a blind eye to the violence in Nigeria. Allowing Islamist extremism to overrun the country, he said, would spread throughout Africa, causing “an unimaginable humanitarian disaster.
“Please keep in mind that we have more pressing problems here than what is bothering the West, and which you tend to dump on us—like same-sex ‘marriage’ or abortion,” he said. “We have been told that in order to access Western aid, we have to accept the modern way of doing things. We don’t want any of that. But we are dying of lack of food, for lack of very basic things. Don’t try to impose your way of life on Africa.” (J.A.E.)