Province of Saint Augustine
Nigeria has attracted the international media attention. Evidently it is neither because of her good political policies in the rank of nations nor her economic revolution but rather because of the terrorist activities of the Jama’atu ahlus Sunnah lid da’awati wal Jihad group popularly known as Boko Haram. Boko Haram is a fundamentalist Islamic sect that aims to forbid anything western in favour of a strict implementation of the Sharia law in the public life. Initially the group emerged from Maiduguri, Bornu State and carried out its violent activities within some few States in the north eastern geopolitical zone of Nigeria. However, for over three years now it has extended its base to other parts of Northern Nigeria where attacks are occasionally executed. It recruits and trains more members, orchestrates and launches attacks on Churches, government, civil and private structures leaving scores of people dead and others injured.
The insurgency of Boko Haram has made life very difficult especially for Christians in Maiduguri and surrounding areas. This has led to the mass exodus of people from the territory and the paralysis of commercial activities therein. Attendance in churches reduces drastically. Those who have chosen to stay back or who have no alternative place to move to face persecution in different forms like ejection from their houses owned by non-Christians, refusal of medical assistance in public hospitals. Others are forced to profess the Islamic faith or risk their lives. To witness to the gospel in this part of the country is a call to true martyrdom, to take up the cross and follow Christ. This is the hard challenge our brothers Frs. Sunday Ikpe and Gabriel Tumba, alongside many Catholics and Christians resident in Maiduguri and some parts of Bornu State face daily.
In October 2012, Boko Haram pounced on a congregation of the faithful during mass in St. Rita’s Church under our care in Kaduna. They threw a bomb that exploded and tore down the roof of the Church leaving about four victims dead and over a hundred injured including a friar, Fr. Michael Boni, OSA. Some of our communities are situated in some of the major cities where the Boko Haram group operates: Maiduguri, Kaduna and Kano. Jos remains a targeted city which often suffers sporadic attacks. The Augustinian Monastery in Jos, our professed students’ formation house is on the border with the Muslim area. All the Christians who were living around the Monastery for decades had to relocate to safe Christian quarters. The past experiences of the religious crises in Jos taught them bitter lessons. The presence of two military or police men helps to keep the Monastery standing and the brothers alive.
The state of insecurity created by this group is a great source of concern. Today people are not safe to exercise their freedom of worship, to go to work and carry out their businesses. They are not safe even in their homes as they live under the threat of death. The Nigerian Military and Police have tried and are making effort to checkmate the activities of Boko Haram with some measure of success and limitations. A lot more needs to be done in order to eliminate this group and create a safe atmosphere among citizens across religious divides. Unfortunately, both the Federal and State Governments lack the political will and the determination to deal with this Islamic sect. This is due to corruption and the fact that some of the government officials are sympathetic to the group and aid them financially.
As Christians live in this situation, our prayer and hope is that all violence will be eliminated from society so that people can worship freely without fear of intimidation or threat.