, 08 January, 2021 / 5:00 PM
Increased Boko Haram attacks meted against Christians in Nigeria are not undermining the practice of Christian faith in the West African country, a Catholic Bishop in one of the worst hit regions of the country has said.
Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme of Nigeria’s Maiduguri Diocese told Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International that the number of Catholics in his Diocese had risen during the Boko Haram insurgency.
“Last year in my Diocese we had more Catholics than when there was no Boko Haram crisis. As long as the kingdom of God continues, no evil human forces will overcome it,” Bishop Doeme said in a report published by ACN Thursday, January 7 and added, “Over 200 churches have been burned down, as well as schools, but we will not be defeated.”
He continued, “We are a people of faith and, in terms of the Church, Boko Haram is not the only evil we have faced. We are deeply devoted to Mary. God will crush Boko Haram in his own time.”
The Nigerian Bishop noted that a large number of people had been baptized at a Parish in the Diocese on Christmas Eve in the wake of an attack that left at least 11 dead and two church buildings razed to the ground.
He said he was undaunted by the attack in which a Priest was abducted, adding that Islamist violence is doomed to failure.
“One thing that Boko Haram will never take from us is our faith,” the 60-year-old Prelate who has been at helm of Maiduguri Diocese since he was ordained a Bishop in August 2009 said.
He added, “We will never allow our faith to be taken away by any evil. Our faith is becoming stronger and stronger. 100 people were baptized in one parish on Christmas Eve. People are so committed.”
Despite a period of violent conflict that has, according to Nigerian human rights organization Intersociety, killed up to 12,000 Christians since June 2015, Bishop Doeme says that Boko Haram’s actions are in fact strengthening the Christian faith.
“It is not the first time Islamist groups in Nigeria have mounted an attack over Christmas, and in 2019 Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) beheaded 10 Christians on Christmas Day while Boko Haram killed seven during a 2019 Christmas Eve raid,” Bishop Doeme recalled.
He went on to tell ACN that the intention of Boko Haram, which he said came out clearly in the Christmas attacks, was to scare Christians into abandoning their faith.
“Boko Haram are against the Christians. The attacks are to make the communities scared and to spoil the Christmas celebrations. They don’t want Christians to enjoy Christmas,” he said.
The Bishop lauded the Nigeria’s federal government for working to contain the insurgency, saying, “The government is struggling to contain Boko Haram. There are saboteurs who leak information to Boko Haram even when they are in the bush.”
He acknowledges with appreciation the support from the Pontifical Charity organization known to work in areas where Christians are persecuted the most saying, “Our greatest support comes from ACN and without ACN the Diocese will collapse.”
“We will continue to pray for you and cherish you,” Bishop Doeme told ACN leadership.
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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
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