Upsurge in Boko Haram violence

Upsure of violence in northern Nigeria claims many lives

An upsurge in the violent activities of the Boko Haram sect has led to many innocent people, Muslim, Christian and Animist, losing their lives in northern Nigeria over recent days.

Rt Rev Oliver Dashe Doeme, Bishop of Maiduguri, confirmed that a Catholic Church in Damataru, Yobe State had been destroyed in one of their attacks.

At the same time there are BBC reports of violence in Zonkwa.

On 4 November, in Damataru, a series of coordinated attacks with the use of explosives targeted the police headquarters, police stations and six different churches in the Christian area of Jerusalem. There are, according to estimates, at least 60 dead and many injured. Previously, several attempts had shocked Maiduguri and other surrounding areas. In Maiduguri, in particular, there were three suicide bombings against army barracks (in turn accused of serious crimes against the civilian population). The attacks are attributed to the militant Islamic Boko Haram sect, which according to several sources have formed an alliance with Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.

With regards to the roots of this violence which for months have been upsetting the north-east of Nigeria, and threatening the rest of the country, Bishop Doeme says: “The causes of this violence are manifold. There are social, economic, political and religious reasons. In particular, there are some powerful people in our society who are losing their importance and use religion to incite the minds of uneducated youth to sow violence”.

“There is a strong level of indoctrination based on the belief that if one dies fighting for the cause he will go to heaven” denounces Mgr. Doeme. “So, these bad teachers say, ‘kill without problems because you will go to heaven’. In fact these young people are exploited by greedy politicians who are losing relevance, and want to still remain in power to continue to improve their finances”.

Bishop Doeme does not exclude that there are also foreign influences fuelling the violence, but insists that “corruption is the root of all social, political and economic evil in the country“.

In his Angelus address on Sunday, 6 November 2011 in St Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI invited all in Nigeria to put an end to such violence. He said: “I am following with concern the tragic episodes that have occurred in past days in Nigeria and, as I pray for the victims, I call for an end to all violence, that does not solve the problems, but increases them, sowing hatred and division even among the believers”.

Welcoming the words of the Holy Father, Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Jos (whose diocese has also suffered greatly for many years from similar violent activities), said that the intervention of the Pope should encourage the Nigerian authorities to urgently do something to address the situation. Speaking to FIDES the Archbishop responded to a question about if there was a plan to divide Nigeria as follows: “Yes, there are people who think that dividing Nigeria into Muslim in the north and Christian in the south there will be peace. But a similar project will only multiply the problems, because there are both Muslims and Christians in the north and south. The solution therefore is not to divide the country, but find ways to live together in peace and go to the root of problems: economic, social and youth unemployment, which is forcing many young in the arms of fanatic political leaders. If we can solve these problems, we could live in harmony alongside each other“.

About the possibility that there may be foreign elements infiltrated among the violent, Archbishop Kaigama told Fides that evidence from a priest in Damataru is that those who carried out the attacks using high explosives, were not locals, but were probably foreigners. “Even the flow of arms and explosives from the Libyan arsenals, looted during the civil war, may pose a threat to Nigeria. “As religious leaders, we appeal to the Nigerian authorities for tighter controls along the borders, at ports and airports of the country, so that no weapons come from outside”, concludes Archbishop Kaigama.

This article was written with information provided by FIDES, the News Agency for the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.