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Catholic Bishop in Nigeria Calls for Worldwide Prayer of the Rosary to Defeat Islamism

Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme o Nigeria's Maiduguri Diocese. Credit: Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)

The Bishop of Nigeria’s Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri has called for fervent prayers through the Blessed Virgin Mary in reciting the Holy Rosary, saying that it is through the devotion to the Mother of our Lord that the war against Islamist militants in the West African country will be won.

In a video message recorded for Catholic Pontifical organization Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International, Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme whose episcopal see lies in Northeastern Nigeria where Christians continue to be persecuted my Boko Haram and other Islamist groups acknowledges the power of the Holy Rosary in ending the suffering of Christians.

Bishop Doeme says, in reference to ACN’s Religious Freedom Report 2021 that highlights various African countries experiencing violations of Religious freedoms, “For those who wish to help alongside aid organizations such as ACN, I ask that you pray for the end of violence, and pray particularly the Rosary.”

The Local Ordinary of Maiduguri where Christians live in constant fear of attacks says the faithful in his Diocese have been praying to the Mother of God for years.

“Through fervent prayer and devotion to Our Lady, the enemy will certainly be defeated,” the Nigerian Bishop says in the Wednesday, May 5 video recording.

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ACN reports that the Diocese of Maiduguri is one of the Dioceses in the West African country that is most severely suffering from the terrorist activities of Boko Haram.

In a past interview with ACI Africa, Doris Mbaezue who works in the communications unit of Caritas Nigeria testified that in Maiduguri and Adamawa State in North-eastern Nigeria, within the Catholic Diocese of Yola, Christians have resorted to gathering in secret to pray over attacks.

The Caritas official said that abandoned Church buildings were a common sight in various church premises in both places as Christians gathered in undefined places to maintain their communal prayers.

“Churches are abandoned. Catholics in Nigeria have been known for being vibrant in the Church but this is no longer the case especially in Adamawa and Borno States,” Ms. Mbaezue said in the March interview.

She added, in reference to Catholics in the territories of the two Nigerian States, “Today, they organize and meet in totally undefined places to quench their thirst for communal prayers. They no longer go to their places of worship because they know they will be killed if they do.”

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The Islamist organization Boko Haram has been terrorizing Nigeria for years. According to Bishop Doeme, up to 12,000 Christians in the country have been killed by terrorism since June 2015.

However, Christians are not only being targeted by Boko Haram, the Bishop says, adding that they also suffer violent attacks by Islamic Fulani herdsmen, as well as by ISIS splinter groups such as ISWAP (Islamic State West African Province).

However, Muslims are also being targeted by the violence, Bishop Doeme tells ACN, and explains, “The Muslim council of the state of Adamawa, for example, has reported that 5,247 Muslims were killed by Boko Haram between 2013 and 2017.”

He tells the Catholic charity organization that the violence stemming from Islamist extremism has spread far beyond the borders of Nigeria.

“The Sahel region has become a safe haven for groups including Boko Haram that have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State,” the Bishop says, and adds that Chad, Mali, Niger, among other African countries are fighting the spread of extremism as well.

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Bishop Doeme says that following the defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, Africa has become “the new epicenter of extremism.”

He says, “It will require international collaboration and the states of Africa working together to defeat the common enemy!”

According to ACN’s newly published Religious Freedom in the World Report 2021, Nigeria is still one of the countries in which Christians and Muslims are hardest hit by Islamist terrorism.

According to the report, the UN estimates that two decades of Boko Haram-related violence have resulted in about 36,000 casualties and the displacement of two million people.

The International Committee of the Red Cross reported that half of the 40,000 people registered as missing in Africa were originally from the Northeastern part of Nigeria, where Boko Haram is keeping the people in a constant state of terror.

ACN cites the Red Cross report, which alludes to the fact that Boko Haram’s objective is to overthrow the government and establish an Islamic state.

But ACN reports that Muslims are also not safe from the cruel violence of the extremists as the brutal attacks are being carried out in parts of the country where Muslims are in the majority.

Additionally, most Muslims in Nigeria do not share the ideological fundamentalism of Boko Haram, according to the Pontifical charity organization.

ACN reports that for several years, climate change and an ever-growing scarcity of grazing lands have led to an increase in the number of reported attacks carried out by Fulani herdsmen, who have particularly targeted Christians.

The organization’s Religious Freedom Report has indicated that the attacks by the Fulani “are increasingly showing radical Islamist tendencies.”