By Sarah Mac Donald - 21 January, 2015
A Bishop whose diocese in north-east Nigeria has suffered most at the hands of Boko Haram, wants the West to send in military forces to defeat the militants.
Describing how a strategically superior Boko Haram was now recruiting from countries across north Africa, Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme of Maiduguri said Western military intervention is the only viable option in the fight against the militants, who are now allied to Islamic State.
In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, the Catholic charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, Bishop Dashe Doeme said Nigeria’s own military was weakened by incompetence, corruption and Boko Haram infiltration within its ranks.
He warned that drastic action was urgently needed as the attacks earlier this month in strategically significant Baga showed that Boko Haram was poised to become a threat well beyond Nigeria’s borders and was recruiting from Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Libya.
Bishop Dashe Doeme, whose diocese is the heartland of the Islamist terror group said, “The West should bring in security – land forces to contain and beat back Boko Haram. A concerted military campaign is needed by the West to crush Boko Haram.”
He said the situation had become so critical with more devastating Boko Haram attacks last week south of Maiduguri.
He also suggested it would demand a repeat of the French campaign of early 2013 which was aimed at forcing Islamists out of parts of Mali, also in west Africa.
Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme said the attack in Baga revealed the ineptitude of the Nigerian military, adding that incompetent senior officers should be sacked “as a lesson to the others”.
“Among the soldiers, there were sympathisers with Boko Haram – some of them were even Boko Haram members and many of them just ran away,” he claimed.
The bishop also called for the arrest of clandestine foreign backers of the Islamist terror group, adding “The [Nigerian] government knows who are sponsoring Boko Haram.”
The bishop described how within five years the Boko Haram threat had decimated his diocese with more than 50 churches and chapels destroyed and more than 200 churches abandoned.
He said 1,000 of his faithful have been killed, many of them by Islamists.
“The [extremists] point a gun or a knife at them saying that if they do not convert they will be killed. Some of them have been killed for refusing to convert,” he explained.
Describing how since 2009, nearly 70,000 of the 125,000 Catholics in Maiduguri had fled their homes, he appealed for help for faithful taking refuge in displacement camps.
The Bishop thanked Aid to the Church in Need for providing €45,000 in emergency aid for displaced people from his diocese.
The charity has also given €37,000 as Mass stipends for the priests of Maiduguri diocese, half of whom have taken refuge in neighbouring Yola diocese in eastern Nigeria.
“The threat we face presents a very bleak future for the Church. Many of our members are scattered and others have been killed. In some areas there are no Christians any more. But the Church belongs to Christ. The Church will remain strong and many of our people have returned after land has been taken back by the Nigerian soldiers.”
He called for prayer to overcome the Boko Haram threat, asking for people to pray the Hail Mary.
“The most important thing is to pray for our people; I know people are praying for us and I am very grateful. I want people to pray the Hail Mary – our mother Mary has been championing our cause. We have a lot of devotion to the Blessed Virgin.”