Catholic bishops of southwest Nigeria have commended Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari and the Nigerian Army for the considerable progress recorded in the fight against Boko Haram.
“ Boko Haram are being scattered and are on the run," President Buhari said just four months after his election into office.
“Occurrences of senseless killing by the Boko Haram have decreased and many displaced people are apparently returning to their former homes. We prayerfully congratulate the Nigerian Army and the security forces for their sacrifice and commitment," the Catholic bishops of the Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province said.
“We appeal to the government that the current general vigilance in the area of security be sustained so as to forestall a recurrence of the worst days of insurgency in Nigeria. In the meantime we plead that great care be taken to avoid punishing innocent people for the crimes of the guilty insurgents."
Reports have it that the routed insurgents have been fleeing, and that their leader, Abubakar Shekau, was among those now on the run.
Boko Haram referred to by themselves as Wilāyat Gharb Ifrīqīyyah is an Islamic extremist group based in northeastern Nigeria, also active in Chad, Niger and northern Cameroon. The leader of the group is Abubakar Shekau. The group announced its allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Since the current insurgency started in 2009, an estimated 20,000 have been ruthlessly murdered, and 2.3 million people,displaced from their homes.
The Islamic Extremists have carried out massive mass abductions including the kidnapping of 250 schoolgirls from Chibok in April 2014.
The bishops issued a communique following their two-day plenary meeting held Jan.18-19 The province includes the Archdiocese of Ibadan and five other dioceses.
Reflecting on the Catholic Church’s Jubilee of Mercy, the bishops reiterated Pope Francis’ call for God’s mercy to be manifest wherever Christians are.
“We call especially on all Catholics in Nigeria to seek God’s mercy through penance, the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the practice of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy which includes the mutual forgiveness of wrongs," they added.
The bishops outlined their “ABCs" of the Year of Mercy: ask for God’s mercy; be merciful; and communicate God’s mercy.
“That so much injustice, violence and bloodshed permeate our society today is a clear indication that we all indeed need God’s mercy, for blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy," the message continued.
The bishops commended efforts of all to enhance and protect “the sanctity of human life, marriage and family in all areas of life." They say they’ve authorized the publication of a Pro-Life and Pro-Family Catechesis which will serve as a handbook detailed for the understanding and application of the Church’s teaching on the said subjects.
Discussing the economic downturn in Nigeria the bishops emphasized on the need to find a solution to end issues concerning continued non-payment of workers salaries.
“Our leaders must avoid any sign of threat, arrogance or impunity in dealing with sensitive public challenges," they said. “Most people are bearing the brunt of the current economic situation with everything they have and the leaders must not add more emotional trauma to their burden," the message read.
The bishops also urged Christians to work towards fostering interaction among people of different religion, he said such efforts will help to promote mutual understanding and peaceful co – existence.