In Nigeria, Boko Haram is sowing the seeds of death and destruction
"A good number of our youth are forcefully conscripted, while the aged, women and children are converted to Islam. Many Nigerians are trapped and are forced to practice strict sharia law."
By Father Gideon Obasogie
Boko Haram emerged as a terrorist group in 2009. In the last few months we have seen some of the worst devastation of Boko Haram attacks. Many of our people have been forced out of their ancestral homes. Right now, thousands are living in caves in the mountains; the few who were able to escape have been taken in by friends and relatives in Maiduguri and Yola.
Thousands have managed to escape into Cameroon and are living under very difficult conditions, including lack of food, shelter and medication. Parents have watched their children grow weak and die. A good number of our youth are forcefully conscripted, while the aged, women and children are converted to Islam. Many Nigerians are trapped and are forced to practice strict sharia law in communities such as Bama, Gwoza, Madagali, Gulak, Shuwa, Michika Uba up on till Mubi. These are the towns on the federal road linking Maiduguri and Yola in Adamawa state.
All of these captured towns by our estimation are no longer part of Nigeria because no one can go in, but those who would luckily escape have many stories to tell. The terrorists have declared all the captured towns to be part of the Islamic Caliphate. The people trapped are forced to accept and practice the strict doctrines the militants are out to propagate
Mubi is predominantly a Christian community and, after Yola, the second biggest commercial center in Adamawa state. It forms a deanery that is part of the Diocese of Maiduguri. It has two strong parish centers: St. Andrew’s Catholic Church and Holy Trinity. It also has two great Chaplaincies: Federal Polytechnic and Adamawa State University. Wed. Oct. 29, 2014 was a sad day for the whole diocese. The Boko Haram insurgents overran the town causing more than 50,000 inhabitants to flee. A good number fled to Cameroon and were trapped for days—including five priests and two Sisters. In the wake of the fall of Mubi, three of the six deaneries have been captured and occupied by the terrorists. What a life!! But we are keeping to the Church’s teachings on the vital importance of witness of presence.
There are more than 100,000 Catholics who are displaced and some who were trapped are still finding their way out to safe towns. For now, the diocese has responsibility of caring for the Internally Displaced Persons. The Church helps all people, regardless of their faith, because it considers our common humanity. We operate more than seven camps in Maiduguri.
Number of persons killed: Over 2,500 Catholic faithful have been killed.
Displaced persons: Over 100,000 Catholic faithful are displaced. Most schools in the Northeast can’t commence regular activities not only because of the terrorists, but also because such school premises now serve as refugee camps.
Displaced priests: Out of the 46 priests currently working in the diocese 26 are displaced. Many of these priests are accommodated by Bishop Dami Mamza of the Yola Diocese.
Displaced catechists: more than 200 catechists are displaced.
Displaced women religious: More than 20 Sisters are displaced.
Abducted women and girls: More than 200
Forceful conversion to Islam: A good number of our faithful have been converted to Islam against their will.
Deserted convents: Out of the (5) convents, (4) have been deserted.
Local communities captured and occupied by Boko Haram:
In Borno State: Gomboru Ngalla and Bama, Gwoza, Maffa and Abadam. Askira Uba, Dikwa, and Marte. Other towns include: Pulka, Banki etc. Maiduguri is completely surrounded by the terrorists.
In Adamawa state: Madagali, Michika, Mubi. Others include Gulak, Kaya, Shuwa, Bazza, Yaffa, Betso, Mishara, Vimtim, Muchalla, Kala’a, Maiha, and Mataka.
In Yobe State: Buni Yadi, Gujba, Gulani, Kukuwa, Bularafa, Buni Gari, Bara, Bumsa, Taltaba. These towns are under strict control by the terrorists and no well-meaning Nigerian can trespass.
Churches destroyed: More than churches and rectories have been razed down, a good number were destroyed more than once.
Deserted churches and chaplaincies: Out of the 40 parish centers and chaplaincies, 22 are presently deserted and occupied by the terrorists.
Affected Schools: The diocese has more than 40primary and secondary schools, but more than 30 have been deserted.
Compensation: As of today, the diocese has received any compensation for the destruction of lives and property that took place between 2006 and 2009.
May Our Blessed Mother who is the help of all Christians continue to intercede for us with her Son.
Father Obasogie is director of Catholic Social Communications for the Diocese of Maiduguri, which comprises a region of Nigeria hardest hit by Boko Haram. He made this account available to Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org
ACN photo: burned out church in the Diocese of Maiduguri