By Benedict Mayaki
Several hundred Catholic faithful led by the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria braved the rain on 1 March 2020 in a peaceful protest against the “brutal killing of innocent Nigerians” and the high level of insecurity in the country.
The march, which took place in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria, started from the National Christian Center and saw many people carrying placards expressing their demands for a safer society.
The procession was preceded by the opening Mass of Bishop’s Conference plenary session during which Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Abuja noted that Nigeria was facing a number of crises including “murderous insurgents ravaging rural communities and lives in the North East” and “herdsmen laying waste to towns and villages”.
Speaking during the protest, the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Archbishop Augustine Akubeze said: “We are protesting against the brutal killing of innocent Nigerians by Boko Haram, and terrorist herdsmen…We are gathered to mourn the women, children, babies, and men who have been killed by the terrorists.”
Silence of Nigerian Government
Archbishop Akubeze lamented the poor response of the Nigerian government to the incessant attacks on defenseless people by Boko Haram; referring to it as “far below average.”
He added: “We are gathered 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 attack with impunity… The failure to protect innocent people from relentless attacks is evil. The lack of prosecution of terrorists is evil.”
“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 the benefit of doubt,” he said.
Silence of International press
Expressing his criticism of the sparse coverage of the crisis, the CBCN President noted: “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”.
“We, the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria, call on the International community to come to the aid of Nigeria. We must see ourselves as a global family in the world. The tears and pains of helpless, persecuted Christians in Nigeria should be well reported in the West. Western journalists and Western political leaders should expose the evil of Boko Haram the way they have exposed the evil of other terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS,” he added.
Call for hope
Archbishop Akubeze ended with calls for optimism, solidarity and trust in God in the face of the situation.
“As we march, we want all Catholics in Nigeria not to be hopeless. We want Catholics and all 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.”
“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 into hearts of flesh. Let us pray for their conversion. Let us pray to God to help our leaders to have the wisdom and courage to do what is good for every Nigerian. Let us eschew every form of hate speech or incitement of violence. Only love can conquer violence and hatred.”
Boko Haram has killed more than 27,000 people making Nigeria the third most dangerous country after Afghanistan and Iraq on the 2019 Global Terrorism Index.
Recently, on January 21, a regional leader of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) was beheaded by Boko Haram. Also, In February 2018, over 100 schoolgirls were kidnapped in Dapchi, northern Nigeria.