The need for the West to “give attention” to the atrocities being committed by the jihadist terrorist organization, Boko Haram the same way it tells stories of other “terrorist groups” was a major highlight at the peaceful protest march staged by Catholic Bishops in Nigeria Sunday, March 1, against abductions and killings that seem to target Christians.
“Western Journalists and Western Political Leaders should give Boko Haram the attention they give to other terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, and ISSIS,” the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Archbishop Augustine Obiora Akubeze appealed during the Sunday protest march in the capital city of Nigeria, Abuja.
“The tears and pains of the helpless persecuted Christians in Nigeria should be well reported in the West,” Archbishop Akubeze said in his address to the peaceful protestors who included Bishops, priests, religious men and women and black-clad lay faithful.
He explained, “If the Western media give comprehensive steadfast coverage to the atrocities happening in Nigeria, they will discover that people are dying daily in Nigeria from the hands of Boko Haram about the same way people are dying in Syria.”
Boko Haram, described by Global Conflict Tracker as one of the largest Islamic militant groups in Africa, has been terrorizing Nigerians since 2011, with indiscriminate attacks directed at security agencies and lately civilians and especially Christians.
Addressing himself to the country’s President Muhammadu Buhari, Archbishop Akubeze appealed, “Please listen to the cries of Nigerians. Listen to the National Assembly when they, in a unanimous voice call you to change the security chiefs. Listen to Muslim leaders who call for more Government proactive actions to prevent terrorist attacks in Nigeria and especially in North Eastern Nigeria.”
The Local Ordinary of Nigeria’s Benin City Archdiocese challenged President Buhari to address the fears of Islamization of Africa’s most populous country saying, “Mr President, Nigeria is a secular State, act to reassure Nigerians that there is no agenda to Islamize Nigeria. Your silence is breeding and sowing seeds of mistrust and the longer it stays this way, the more you lose those who could have given you benefit of doubt.”
Still addressing himself to the country’s Head of State, the 63-year-old Prelate continued, “Only few Nigerians can defend you with reasons. Only few Nigerians can argue that your silence is not an endorsement of the barbaric actions of the terrorists.”
Referencing President Buhari’s seeming indifference amid the mass killings of Nigerians, the Nigerian Prelate lamented, “We sometimes read of our Government sending condolence messages to western countries when there is a terrorist attack that may have led to the death of one or two persons.”
However, the Archbishop noted, “We are utterly surprised to discover that the same Nigerian Federal government will not even send a condolence message to families who have suffered fatalities in the hands of Boko haram.”
“We see our President rarely visit or even speak to Nigerians when there are terrorist attacks in Nigeria. The several attacks on the lives of Nigerians are almost a new normal. Our Government seems completely insensitive to the plight of Nigerians,” the Archbishop said and added, “A Government that totally ignores the cries of those who elected them is set up for a fantastic failure.”
The West African Prelate also decried “the lack of significant actions to prevent and secure the release of those being held in captivity by Boko Haram.”
He termed the gap incomprehensible saying, “We cannot understand why the Government is not able to secure the release of the rest of the Chibok girls, the release of Leah Sharibu and others still being held.”
The President of the Bishops’ conference also bemoaned the seeming unwillingness of the Nigerian government to prosecute the perpetrators behind the beheading of Reverend Lawan Andimi, and those behind the murder of 18-year-old Seminarian Michael Nnadi.
“Nigerians are tired of hearing of the inexcusable actions of the Government in their response to these and many other sad cases,” he said.
Our protest “is part of our religious obligation to speak prophetically against whatever is against God’s commandment,” Archbishop Akubeze said and added, “The killing of God’s children is evil. The failure to protect innocent people from relentless attacks is evil. The lack of prosecution of terrorists is evil.”
In his considered view, the “Government response to terrorist attacks is, for lack of better words, far below average.”
This is because, the Archbishop explained, “There have been too many mass burials. Too many kidnappings of school children, of travelers, invasion of peoples’ homes, invasion of sacred places like Churches, mosques, seminary, etc.”
“We are protesting against the brutal killings of innocent Nigerians by Boko Haram, and terrorists’ herdsmen who are invading people’s farmlands forcefully. We are gathered here to register our protest against the kidnapping for ransom in every part of Nigeria,” the Archbishop said and continued, “We are gathered to mourn the women, children, babies, and men who have been killed by the terrorists.”
The protest Archbishop Akubeze said is meant “to let the Federal Government of Nigeria know that we are tired of hearing from them that Boko Haram has been “technically defeated” even when they still attacked with impunity. Many local and international security experts have concluded that the terrorists use weapons that are very sophisticated.”
Addressing the thousands of protesters carrying placards with various messages, the CBCN President called on Nigerians not to lose hope.
“We want Catholics and other well-meaning patriotic Nigerians to stand together to fight this terrorism. We must speak out against Government inaction and poor response. We must work and pray for change to happen in Nigeria,” the Archbishop said.
He decried religious discrimination in “top security positions” in Buhari’s government telling his county’s Preside, “We want you to know that we pray to God to help your Government realise that loyalty to Nigerians, loyalty to the unity of the country should trump the desire by some people around to fill sensitive top security positions with people from one section who shared one religious belief. This is a recipe for disaster in a multi-ethnic, and multi-diverse nation.”
“As we entrust our country Nigeria to God, let us also entrust the terrorists into the hands of God. God can change their hearts of stone to a heart of flesh. Let us pray for their conversion,” the Archbishop of Benin City urged.
During the 3 p.m. peaceful march from the National Ecumenical Centre amid heavy rains, protesters sang “there shall be showers of blessing” before reciting the Holy Rosary and concluding with Holy Mass at to Our Lady Queen of Nigeria, Pro Cathedral in Abuja.
There have been mixed reactions to the Bishops-led peaceful protest march with “Proud to be a Catholic” posting on Facebook, “Two things touched me deeply: That even the Emeritus Bishops could walk that distance without collapsing and the sudden rainfall after months of scorching heat in Abuja. Was the rain a coincidence or an outward sign that God is with the Church in (these troubled times). I imagined that God sent his Holy Water in the form of drizzling rain akin to the pillar of light and cloud that accompanied the people of Israel to the promised land.”
John Iorbee posted, “This protest against the killing of Christians in Nigeria is good and timely but much more is needed. We should also defend ourselves against the invaders and take proactive steps and not just pray that our situation will change. No, we should take steps to defend ourselves and also pray. That’s pray and match our Prayers with action. Positive action for that matter. May God in His infinite wisdom help us, Amen.”
“It’s a Good move,” Nwodom Philip remarked and added in reference to the residence of Nigeria’s President, “I would have (loved) it more if you our Lordships will match like that straight to Aso Rock so that the president will know that we are serious in condemning the killings our fellow Christian every day and night. May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace Amen.”
According to Ccika Orji, “The Church is not yet ready to face the truth. Until we seek the root cause of the malaise, and apportion the right drug(s), at the right dosage(s), we will continue to be reactionary, impoverished and killed! Laborare est orare!”
“The voice of the people of God, may God hear the prayers of his faithful and save our country from the hands of the wicked,” Okori Sunday posted.
On Ash Wednesday, in response to the directive from Bishops in Nigeria that all Catholics in the country demonstrate their solidarity with the victims of kidnappings and murder by organizing a Prayer Protest while wearing black, the various dioceses in the West African country held “symbolic prayer protests” in their respective localities.
Meanwhile, speaking earlier during his homily at the opening Mass of the CBCN Plenary meeting, the Archbishop of Abuja, Ignatius Kaigama lamented the situation in the country saying, “In contemporary Nigeria perhaps one of our biggest temptations is one of believing in our country against all odds.”
“For quite a while now, it appears that it is our country’s destiny to always dance on the edge of the perilous precipice. Otherwise how does one explain the uninterrupted movement from one crisis to another?” Archbishop Kaigama said.
“If it is not the murderous insurgents ravaging rural communities and lives in the North East, then it is the herdsmen laying waste towns and villages and leaving tales of death and destruction in their trail,” the 61-year-old Prelate added.
In his considered opinion, “Although those in authority continue to assure the populace that they are doing everything in their power to arrest the ugly trend, permanent solutions and peace will continue to elude us if we do not repent, change our ways and turn to God for help and for healing.”