The Middle Belt is also the window to Southeastern Nigeria, which is over 90 percent Christian, he said, and further explained, “If you capture the Middle Belt, it becomes easy to access Southern Nigeria. So, that is why attacks by unknown gunmen as the government claims have been persistent.”
“But if you ask Christians, they will tell you that these attacks are premeditated. They are carried out by Islamists who are bent on polarizing Christians and then entrenching their Islamic Sharia law,” the Convener, Media Team Network Initiative (MTNI) told ACI Africa.
He emphasized, “The attacks we are seeing in Nigeria are orchestrated by Islamists who are Fulani herdsmen wreaking havoc in our communities without being punished.”
Fr. Dyikuk went on to recount his personal experience of the ongoing violence in Nigeria.
“I used to work in a place called Azare, in Katagum local government area of Bauchi state. There were times that you go to Mass and saying Mass in an uncompleted building and some Muslim children will be throwing stones at you and there is little or nothing you can do because if you resist them or fight back, you can easily be stoned or killed,” he recounted.
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The Catholic Priest continued, “In 2011 when Buhari lost the election and cried on national television, a lot of Nigerians were killed.”
“As a Priest working in Azare, seven members of our Church were killed including the Church chairman. It was the same scenario in one of our out stations where about 8 young graduates were killed simply because they were Christians,” he added.
Apart from the physical violence, Fr. Dyikuk said, “there is the non-physical. In my Parish where I work, two girls were forcefully Islamized. Christians are denied land to build churches, Christians are denied employment and are denied admission into universities and government institutions. I have been a victim of this. Many of our girls and boys have been intimidated, abducted and forcefully Islamized.”
Against this backdrop, members of the Clergy in Nigeria have been calling for action from the Muhammadu Buhari-led government, Fr. Dyikuk recalled during the April 12 interview with ACI Africa.
He lamented, “Church leaders have been talking, but whatever they say yields no fruits because the government is much more interested in their agenda and pushing the frontiers of what they want to achieve, namely an Islamic State in the so-called secular state of Nigeria that we have.”
As a way forward, the Nigerian Catholic Priest said, “The Church must be entrepreneurial in terms of engendering what I call ‘Catholic-preneurship’, a sense of either giving the local people scholarship to go to school and be enlightened so they will know their faith and stand for their faith or helping them to study the theological sciences to be abreast with the modern teachings of the Church.”
Catechesis was “very important”, Fr. Dyikuk said, and added, “As much as it is good to train local Clergy, it is also good to train lay people so that they can stand for their faith and die happily defending the faith.”
He called on members of the international community to “defend Christians in Africa” and “be interested in what is happening in Nigeria.”
“Only through research, and data can we truly know the number of people that have disappeared, the number of people that have died and those who are looking up to the super powers for support,” Fr. Dyikuk said during the April 12 interview with ACI Africa.
Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.