Aid to the Church in Need supports Christian refugeesACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin
Montreal/Königstein, 27 October 2014 – The international Catholic charity “Aid to the Church in Need” will support refugees who fled from attacks of the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria. Answering a request from Bishop Oliver Doeme from the Roman Catholic diocese of Maiduguri in North Eastern Nigeria “Aid to the Church in Need” has just approved a $64,000 aid package to help the diocese of Maiduguri manage the situation of the refugees.
The beneficiaries of this support will be the men, women and children, young and old, who have found refuge in the Cameroons, in the mountains, in Maiduguri and Yola. Also 200 catechists and their families, as well as those priests from the diocese taking refuge in Yola will benefit from this help.
Since 2009 the Diocese of Maiduguri is the worst hit diocese by the Boko Haram attacks. The three Northern Eastern Nigerian states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa are at the centre of Boko Haram activities. And the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri covers two and half of these states. Since 2009, many of the Church’s structures, priests rectories, schools, hospitals, shops, personal houses of lay people and business centers have been destroyed whilst over 80,000 of the diocese’s members have fled their ancestral villages and taken refuge in different places.
A total disconnection
So far the Nigerian Army has failed to protect the civilian population. Given Boko Haram’s technical superiority, the mastery and resilience with which they fight, the military are unable to face their attacks and they flee, asking civilians to do the same. The government seems unable to protect the lives of its citizens and there is a total disconnection between what is being reported on the Nigerian media and the reality on the ground.
As a consequence of Boko Haram’s almost unchallenged over-run of many towns and villages in the Northeast part of the country, thousands of these Internal Displaced People (IDPs) are living in caves in the mountain or in the forest. Others who managed to escape from the terrorists are being absorbed by friends and relatives in Maiduguri, Mubi and Yola. Thousands were able to escape to the Cameroons and are living under very difficult conditions of lack of food, shelter and medication.
These refugees are in urgent need of water, food, clothes, shelter and medical care. Speaking to “Aid to the Church in Need” Mons. Oliver Doeme, Catholic Bishop of Maiduguri, laments that the Nigerian government is failing to provide them with the necessary support to survive: “Given the political situation in the country, the funds meant for the victims of terrorism very seldom reach the actual people on the ground. The Church has been making efforts to offer as much help as possible. The diocese of Maiduguri has given some relief materials to over 1,500 IDPs and it has joined hands with the Yola diocese to assist those who have taken refuge there. In the spirit of ecumenism, we have even assisted refugees in Maiduguri who are mostly Christians from other church denominations.”
Slaves and prisoners in their homeland
However the reality is that the Church has been badly hit by this crisis and it is well over stretched in terms of finances, pointed Mons. Oliver Doeme. “We are in dire need of external assistance to help alleviate the difficult situation of the refugees, especially of the children who, out of school and vulnerable to diseases, face an uncertain future.”
According to Bishop Doeme “people are dying every day and in most cases with no one to bury them decently, they are left to rot; their homes and properties looted; they have become slaves and prisoners in their fatherland, here is a government that cannot safe guard the lives of its citizens and indeed life has become so cheap that it can be wasted any moment. We use to think that salt is the cheapest commodity in the market, well, life is cheaper now especially in the Northeastern part of Nigeria.”
Bishop Doeme stressed that both Muslims and Christians have been affected by Boko Harams terror. But he added that there is “still a religious under-tone to this whole mess. We might shy away from it, we may be silent and unable to speak up or speak out now against the plan to Islamize the Northeast and eventually Nigeria. But what we are witnessing in Northern Adamawa is a clear confirmation and the unfolding of this agenda. Many young people were forcefully taken and conscripted into the Boko Haram and are currently receiving training in the captured Mobile Base in Limankara. Women who could not escape were forced to convert to Islam and married out to the terrorists; some of the elderly who cannot escape are being killed, some are left to die from hunger and starvation. This is the fate of every single town or village that has fallen into their hands. Killings, destruction, looting, forced marriage, forced recruitment or conscription, forced conversion to Islam and mounting of their flags and declaration of Sharia’ah or caliphate mark their activities.”
Msgr. Doeme is not very optimistic about the future. According to him “a major area of concern is that no one knows when Boko Haram members will be flushed out of these areas so that our people will go back. It is our prayer that it happens soon. But for sure, no one knows when it will happen.”