Vatican City, Sep 8, 2014 / 12:02 pm .- Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama spoke out in the wake of more violent attacks in Nigeria, saying that although fears are high, rumors that the country is following a similar pattern as Iraq are exaggerated.
“It is too alarmist to talk of a break up of Nigeria because of Boko Haram activities,” Archbishop Kaigama of Jos and spokesman for the Bishops Conference of Nigeria told CNA Sept. 5.
He drew attention to how more than 490 delegates to Nigeria’s National Conference have been in meetings since March to discuss the Nigerian Project, a government initiative encouraging citizens to actively participate in government affairs in order to increase transparency.
Despite an “irrespective of political, ethnic differences and serious disagreements over some issues, the indivisibility of Nigeria was upheld,” the archbishop explained.
“All we need is the equitable distribution of resources, more patriotic rather than narrow ethnic and religious sentiments. We need to tackle corruption with the same intensity as we attempt to tackle Boko Haram, because corruption unfortunately gives birth to other monsters of social evils.”
In recent weeks the militant Islamist group Boko Haram has expanded its violent campaign, taking over two new cities in northern Nigeria.
In late August, Boko Haram captured the town of Madagali in Nigeria’s Adamawa state, where the local parish was looted, vandalized and then set on fire. Parishes throughout the diocese have been continually terrorized by Boko Haram, forcing Christians and priests to flee and churches to close, Vatican Radio reports.
Only a few days prior to the capture of Madagali, the militant group captured the nearby town of Gwoza in the state of Borno and declared a caliphate, or an Islamic state, in the area.
However, recent reports from the BBC and the Nigerian online news source the Daily Post indicate that Boko Haram has abandoned Gwoza in favor of Bama, a city with a population of around 270,000 and roughly 50 miles to the north.
After intense battles with the Nigerian military, residents of Bama told the BBC that the town had been captured by the insurgents Sept. 1.
In response to concerns that the pattern of violence in Nigeria is beginning to mirror that which has been unleashed by ISIS forces in Iraq, Archbishop Kaigama said that “Nigeria is a multicultural and multi-religious country and so cannot be compared with Iraq.”
He pointed to how Nigeria is composed of 36 different states, noting that Boko Haram is currently only wreaking havoc in the section made up of the Borno and Yobe states, as well as some parts of Adamawa State, which is a very small part of the country.
Although the prospect of becoming another Iraq is not likely, the archbishop cautioned that the activities of Boko Haram “defy logic and are insensitive to humanity.”
They are, he observed, “serious enough to upset relationships, cause disaffection, generate serious anger and heighten anxiety in different parts of Nigeria.”
Archbishop Kaigama drew attention to similarities between Boko Haram and other terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda, saying that what binds the groups “is violence dictated by religious intolerance.”
“That they are determined to kill and destroy in the name of their ‘God’ contradicts the whole essence of religion,” he said. “Their strange religious ideology of non-respect for those who differ from them and don’t worship God the same way they do is unfortunate.”
Overcoming Boko Haram can only happen with greater military and political will, he noted, explaining that an all-out attack against the insurgents is at the moment difficult due to the fact that they use “as human shields” the nearly 300 girls kidnapped from Chibok in April.
“It is important to note that the majority of Muslims and Christians are united in their desire to see the end of the Boko Haram menace,” he said, observing how many “serious-minded Muslims” have condemned their actions as non-Islamic.
What the international community can do to further assist the situation is to track the roots of groups such as Boko Haram, ISIS and Al-Qaeda in order to “cripple their operations.”
However, in order for this to happen “there must be a sincere willingness to collaborate to put an end to these anti-social groups which make life hellish for others.”
“Serious political will is needed on the part of the international community; a selfless commitment that springs from the depths of the heart, beyond media headlines.”
Boko Haram, which means “Western education is sinful,” began using military force in 2009 to impose sharia law on Nigeria. It has targeted security forces, politicians, Christian minorities, and moderate Muslims in Nigeria’s predominately Muslim north.
The group has killed thousands since 2009, including at least 2,000 in 2014 alone. The U.N. estimates their attacks have led to more than 470,000 internally displaced persons, and some 57,000 refugees.
Boko Haram gained international attention in April when it claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of the nearly 300 teenaged school girls from Chibok.
Many countries including China, France, the U.K. and U.S. have sent military assistance to help find the girls, but the majority of them remain missing.