Amid continuing attacks in Nigeria attributed to the Islamic militant group Boko Haram, Catholic bishop of Maiduguri has said that faith overshadows the fear, and it’s his duty to stay and not abandon his people.
During an interview with Madison Catholic Herald, Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme said,“Fear will always come. But then, as a believer, the faith overshadows the fear.”
“Since Boko Haram’s emergence, it has been one attack after another on the church, on individuals, families,” Bishop Doeme said.
The bishop’s right-hand man, Fr Gideon Obasogie, from Nigeria too, recounted a touching story of a young male parishioner.
The young boy was abducted by the barbaric extremist group, and was missing for four days.
“The Boko Haram never touched him. He had the strength somewhere,” Fr Obasogie said during an interview with the Madison Catholic Herald.
Fr Obasongie said they terrorized and frightened the boy with knives and guns.
“They blindfolded him and lied to the others (Boko Haram) that they were going to kill him in the forest,” Father Obasongie said. “And then, they took him out and dropped him by the roadside. … He found his way back home.”
Fr Obasongie said, “That was like, wow.”
While listening to this story, a single tear slowly descended halfway down Bishop Doeme’s face. This was a happy story, but it also was a rare story.
In recent years the diocese of Maiduguri in northeast Nigeria has been severely tried, for it is in one of the areas most hard-hit by the violence of the terrorist group Boko Haram. Beginning in 2009, no less than 100,000 people from this diocese have been displaced from their homes through violence – with over 5,000 murders of Catholics and numerous churches, schools and hospitals – destroyed.
Bishop Doeme, 55, a native of the Nigerian state of Plateau said, “They may destroy our structures but not our faith. Our Faith is active and alive…..in persecution we are purified.”
The bishop, who was in Milwaukee to speak at the 10th annual Men of Christ Conference on March 12, said it’s been difficult for the military to fight the terrorists.
“Some powerful people, from another part of Nigeria, supported this group,” Bishop Doeme told the Madison Catholic Herald. “Individuals or groups supported this particular sect by giving them funds and arms for the members to use.”
The fighting between the government and the group has had a profound impact on the diocese.
“The Boko Haram members captured many areas in our diocese,” Bishop Doeme said. “And as they captured many areas, people have to flee. Especially from their ancestral homes … they’ve had to fear for their own lives.”
He said that, as a bishop, his job is to face the threat head on.
“As the bishop, I am in a particular place because God has planted me there in order to serve the people,” he said. “One of the things that the bishop should never joke with is to abandon his people or to run away from his people. He shouldn’t do that at all.”
Toward the end of 2014, Bishop Doeme had a moving mystical experience. While praying the Rosary before the Blessed Sacrament in his chapel, he claims he had a vision of Jesus, who did not speak but appeared to offer him a sword.
Bishop Doeme said. “I received the sword and it turned into a rosary.” Then Jesus repeated three times: “Boko Haram is gone.”
Bishop Dashe Doeme said, “It was clear to me that with the Rosary we could defeat Boko Haram.”
The bishop asked for prayers and financial contributions to be sent directly to the diocese.
“I met the pope last year,” Bishop Doeme said, adding it was a brief meeting. “He’s praying for us, for me and my people. But even apart from that, he also sent some funds directly to us … so we’re able to take care of our own devastated people.”
“Late last year, the military was able to chase the terrorists out and now people are coming back,” Fr Obasogie said. “The place is still volatile, still very unstable … but people are quite faithful and are coming back.”