Last week, Fr. Vincent Okoye, a missionary from Nigeria, came to my parish (St. Joseph in Chauvin, LA), to explain the situation in his home Diocese of Maiduguri and ask for prayers and financial help to keep the faith alive. His situation was so terrible that many parishioners were crying at the end of his presentation.
The following is a summary of his presentation.
The Maiduguri Diocese is a small, rural, missionary diocese in the Northeastern part of Nigeria, which now has become the hot bed of radical Islam. Blessed with many vocations, it has 36 parishes and serves about 300,000 people in a country of about 170 million people. The population is roughly divided between the predominantly Muslim North and the largely Christian South.
In recent times, Christians have come under severe attack from the Islamic Extremist group Boko Haram. The main area of operations for this group is the area covered by the Maiduguri Diocese. Consequently, many Christians were killed during worship services by suicide bombers, IEDs or gunmen.
These terrorists have also killed people in their homes and businesses. Many women have been widowed and many children have lost one or both parents. The terrorists have abducted and raped many women and forced some to fight for this group. They have destroyed churches and schools. Christians live in constant fear and insecurity.
More recently, this group has taken over many towns and villages in their bid to create an Islamic State in the style of ISIS. In recent estimates, 219 of the Chibok school girls are still missing, 11 of their parents have died.
The extremists have killed about 30,000 people among whom are about 5,000 Catholics. The diocese has lost 26 elementary schools, four secondary schools, four convents, three clinics and more than 300 Catholic churches.
Other religions have also suffered losses.
People have lost all their ancestral lands, families have been separated, dreams have been torn apart and livelihoods destroyed. In the midst of all this destruction, it is most important to overcome the despair and hopelessness by comforting and consoling these traumatized victims. Among these traumatized victims are thousands of vulnerable orphans and widows.
Young people remain the future of tomorrow’s Church and society. Many of them were robbed of their parents and their dreams for a better future. It is equally heart rending to see some parents who fear their sons and daughters have been abducted by these heartless terrorists.
Many live in makeshift shelters, since their homes have been destroyed.
The government troops have proven ineffective in protecting the people or combating the insurgents. The people now rely only on God and the prayers of concerned Christians. They wonder what will happen next year since in many parts of the diocese, the people were not able to plant seeds because the Boko Haram militants ambush them on their way to their farms. They may also have a looming food crisis, in addition to this whole unfortunate situation. Still, they hope and pray for the best.
Their Bishop wants to address the pastoral crises by focusing on giving hope to the hopeless. This entails providing food, medical supplies, seeds for planting and mobile schools in the displaced peoples’ camps. The Bishop has emphasized that the focus of the diocese is not rebuilding the churches, rectories and school classrooms, but the rebuilding of the shattered lives of their people, not just Catholics or Christians, but also Muslims affected by the crisis.
First, they need our fervent prayers and secondly, they are humbly asking for our generous financial contribution to help this important project of restoring hope to the despairing. Checks can be made out to St. Joseph Church in Chauvin, with Maiduguri Diocese in the memo.
Posted on Fri, July 24, 2015
by Rev. Wilmer L. Todd