Tens of thousands of Christians are fleeing northeastern Nigeria, following killings and the burning and destruction of several churches by the Boko Haram Muslim sect. According to Fr . Patrick Tor Alumuku, Social Communications officer in the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja, “I spoke to priests in Maiduguri (Ed. note: the capital of Borno State in northeastern Nigeria where Boko Haram is most active) who speak of terrifying happenings.” According to the priest, “Boko Haram is determined to eliminate every sign of Christian presence and many churches have been destroyed or torched. Last week in a village in the area of Maiduguri, Boko Haram took over the parish for its local headquarters.”
Catholic Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme of Maiduguri, “in areas where Boko Haram is active Christians are fleeing by the thousands. ” He reported that at least 90,000 Catholics are now displaced by the Islamist rebels who are challenging the sovereignty of the Nigerian government.
According to the Fides news service, Father Patrick said, “However, among the crowds of Christians in flight there are also Muslims.” He added, “Some are chiefs of villages and towns, others are Muslim religious leaders (emirs) who cannot identify with what is being committed by Boko Haram.”
“Unfortunately a good number of these displaced persons cannot escape from the combat areas and getting humanitarian aid to them is very difficult. Only people outside these areas can reached by assistance” the Father Patrick continued. “If a city like Maiduguri with a population of more than one million were to be attacked by the Boko Haram offensive, the result would be an extremely serious humanitarian disaster.”
When contacted by Spero News, Nigerian-American attorney and human rights activist Emmanuel Ogebe spoke of the horrors being faced by Nigerian Christians at the hands of Boko Haram, which has been linked to the Al-Qaeda terrorist group. Said Ogebe, “Our local partners say a couple more towns fell to the terrorists over the weekend, including a predominantly Christian safe haven where we normally stay during trips to the violent northeast.”
Ogebe is special counsel to the Justice for Jos Project and the Jubilee Campaign, both of which have spoken forcefully about the predations made by Muslim Nigerians against Christians. In June 2014, Ogebe testified before Congress about the inroads Boko Haram has made in Nigerian territories where Muslims and Christians had previously lived in relative peace.
(Emmanuel Ogebe testifying to Congress)
Speaking to the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations of the House of Representatives, Ogebe said in June 2014 “It took the US twenty-five months after the first two Americans were attacked and one year after the third and fourth Americans were targeted before Boko Haram was designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization.” He went on to note that the United Kingdom and the European Union were similarly tardy in recognizing the threat posed by Boko Haram when the group was finally designated a terrorist organization. Ogebe criticized the Nigerian government for its lack of responsiveness to the terrorist threat, especially in light of the abduction and rape of over 300 girls from a school in Chibok in June 2014.
described in an email to Spero
News more recent horrors being visited upon Christians in Nigeria. He wrote, “Our local partner's female cousin is amongst those killed by Boko Haram
indicating that they are killing Christian women too which is different from the takeover of Gwoza
. In Gwoza
, they beheaded Christian men and married off their wives when they declared an Islamic caliphate two weeks ago. According to Boko Haram's
own video, Abubakar Shekau
claims he killed 1,000 Christians on that day. This has not been reported in the media as far as we can tell but is contained in his YouTube statement. We are investigating this but since he controls the town it is impossible to tell. If true this is the worst single day massacre of Christians anywhere in contemporary history.”
The video in question was released by Boko Haram on August 24 and can be seen on YouTube. Shekau is seen on the video boasting of Boko Haram's victories and slaughter, while calling on Nigerians to accept Islam. According to SaharaTV, Boko Haram released the video in order to celebrate the seizing of the town of Gwoza, which the group has declared is the capital of a new Islamic caliphate in Nigeria. is its new headquarters for a new Islamic caliphate in Nigeria. The video also showed examples of the weapons captured from Nigerian security forces. In addition, the video showed Nigerian troops abandoning their positions as civilians fled for their lives. In a statement, the media source declared "SaharaReporters could not show that last 10 minutes of the video because it contains gruesome images committed by Boko Haram militants against innocent civilians in Gwoza.'
Earlier this year, a female suicide bomber detonated an explosive device, killing herself and four worshippers outright at a Catholic parish church. The attacker is described as a girl of approximately 18 years in age. According to one report, it was on July 27 when she was asked by soldiers guarding the church why she was wearing traditional Muslim attire that covered her from head to foot that she unleashed the deadly blast. At least 70 persons were injured on the scene, while three of the wounded subsequently died in hospital.
In early June, Catholic Archbishop Alfred Adewale Martins of Lagos wrote a pastoral statement in which he said that Boko Haram’s tactics are ever more worrisome because the insurgents are seeking to “conquer” territories and force Nigeria’s military to respond. Entitled "Take to heart", Archbishop Martin’s statement said "it is most disheartening to see women and children blowing themselves up in the guise of fighting a religious war."