Boko Haram, persecution of Christians in North-East are a blessing in disguise — Adamawa CAN chairman

1/25/2020 10:38:00 PM

Boko Haram, persecution of Christians in North-East are a blessing in disguise — Adamawa CAN chairman

2 hours agoKindly Share This Story OnMost Reverend Stephen Mamza, Catholic Bishop of Yola Diocese and State Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria, says the recent US categorisation of Nigeria on its religious watch list is unequivocally true, while calling on Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar and Muslim Rights Concern not to deny the fact that Christians are persecuted in Nigeria. He also tells HINDI LIVINUS that over 800 churches have been affected by insurgency in the state

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Boko Haram recently killed the Chairman of the Christian Association Nigeria in the Michika Local Government Area of the state, Rev Lawan Andimi, who was held captive for some time, how do you view this?We are pained and saddened by the gruesome murder. The church was shocked by the killing. This killing only goes to confirm the deteriorating security situation in the North-East. Our call to the President (Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) is to be serious. As a matter of fact, his service chiefs should be changed. No one is safe any longer, especially Christians who are the target of various Islamist groups.

The United States recently said Christians were being killed in Nigeria, how true is that statement?There is just no doubt about it. Everybody knows Christianity is the most persecuted religion across the world today and even here in Nigeria. I don’t think there are any adherents of any religion that have been persecuted, especially in northern Nigeria like those of the Christian faith. Persecution does not mean that somebody must be killed. There are different means by which people are persecuted. If you are denied your rights, if you are denied what is supposed to be yours and also discriminated against because of your faith, that is persecution.

How would you react to the dismissal by Sultan Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar and Muslim Rights Concern that what you are saying now is not true?Everybody knows about this; what the United States has said is nothing more than the truth. It is not what everybody would like to hear but that is the truth. The truth is always bitter. I am sure people don’t want to accept it. But the US has spoken the truth.

Why do you think the Sultan and the Muslim organisation are denying it, when they are not even a government agency?Since they are leaders of the Islamic faith in the country, they wouldn’t want their religion to be tagged as persecuting Christians.Their denial is obvious. But the truth is that they are only denying reality. They know that the truth has been said. As a matter of fact, they know it is the truth but they just don’t want to accept it. My advice to the Sultan is to accept the position of the US and speak to his fellow brothers to be more accommodating, and accept and treat all Nigerians equally irrespective of their ethnicity or religion.

What do you think about the killing of Christians on Christmas Day by the Islamic State in West Africa Province in Borno?It is part of the persecution. Why did you not hear that Muslims were killed? Why Christians? It is part of the persecution. So why should the Sultan and MURIC deny it? This is one evidence offered them by the insurgents to know that what the US has been saying about the persecution of Christians is true. After all, Boko Haram has never hidden their intentions to destroy Christianity and enthrone Islam. It is very sad that it happened on Christmas Day.

Many Christian clerics and priests have been kidnapped and killed by Boko Haram, bandits and herdsmen and so on, why do you think this is so?This is all part of the Islamisation agenda and persecution of Christians. It is usually disguised in different forms. It could take the form of herders/farmers’ clashes, it could be in the form of bandits or Boko Haram attacking a village where the dominant settlers or indigenes are either 90 per cent or 100 per cent Christians. It is part and parcel of the challenges that Christians are actually facing in Nigeria, particularly in northern Nigeria. So the Islamisation threat is real. We are seeing the signs everywhere. We have seen also the victims and the impact of the intended Islamisation agenda. So it is now an open secret.

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Different tools, means and methods are being used, so it is not only one way. But many other ways are being exploited to ensure that the agenda is achieved.What has been your experience as a pastor of a church in Adamawa where Boko Haram used to have a stronghold?

My experience has been a traumatic one, especially when Boko Haram overran seven local governments, including my LGA, Michika. It was such a traumatic experience but again, thanks to Almighty God that we are trying to recover from it. But this actually, to some certain extent, has strengthened the faith of some Christians.

There were some who were actually not committed Christians before the advent of Boko Haram. But today, if you see them, their commitment in their church, you will never believe they are the same people. To a certain extent, there’s a blessing in it. We now have churches in some of the places where we didn’t have before. And even the churches that have been destroyed are now bigger and better, and more magnificent churches are being built. Therefore, to a certain extent, it is a blessing in disguise. Based on the history of the church, the church always triumphs when there’s persecution. As it is said, the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christianity. And so, the more Christians were persecuted even in the infant church (the early) church, the more they spread. And I believe that is what is going to happen in the North-East and it has started happening already. The more Christians are being persecuted the more they are going to spread.

What has been your personal experience and those of other pastors you know?My own personal experience is the difficulty we encountered, especially in terms of taking care of internally displaced persons. People come in their thousands and we have to feed them, we have to clothe them, we have to give them shelter and do so many things to ensure they are alive. It has been a very difficult experience for me. Even pastors have also lost their houses; their houses have been destroyed in some places – parish houses, churches have been destroyed and such persons were also displaced.

Not only that, we also have a good number of orphaned children due to the insurgency. Now the church has to take on the responsibility of caring for them, feeding them, clothing them and giving them shelter and sending them to school.How many churches do you know that have been affected by insurgency in the state?

There are more than 800 churches that have been affected by the insurgency but those that were completely burnt down to the ground are 477 churches. No church has been closed down except in places where people cannot live as a result of the insurgents. In all those places where the churches have been burnt down, people have set up temporary worship places and some even hold services under trees.

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Up until now, there’s no single church in Adamawa which has been destroyed by Boko Haram that has been rebuilt either by North East Development Commission or the state government. Not a single dime has been given either by the federal or state government for rehabilitation of any of the churches destroyed by insurgents. We are still waiting. I am very surprised because most of the mosques destroyed in Borno State by Boko Haram have been rebuilt. But the government has neither rebuilt churches nor mosques destroyed by insurgents in Adamawa. However, you cannot compare the number of churches destroyed to the number of mosques destroyed since the mosques were not really their target.

Much of the damage to mosques was as a result of collateral damage due to aerial bombings by fighter jets and standoff between the military and the insurgents. But of course, the insurgents also bombed some mosques in a few northern parts of the state.

Since the insurgency started, what year has been the worst and why?The worst period of the insurgency since it started was between September 2014 and May 2015. Those were the months that the seven LGAs in the northern parts of the state were overrun by the insurgents and thousands were displaced. And they fled to the state capital.

What about the members of your congregation, what have been their experiences?As regards faith, it is not shaken, even though the external structures may have been destroyed. But with regard to the killing of pastors, there’s no priest in the Catholic Church who is known to have been killed except for catechist. But there are a few other pastors I know who have lost their lives. A lady once said, “Bishop, they may have taken away our church, but they have not taken away Christ from us.”

How safe is the church and its pastors?The church is still not safe because there’s no place that is currently safe. We only have faith that as we go to church, God is there. This is because as we go to church, we are not sure if we will finish mass or come out alive. But again, that will not stop us from worshipping God.

What measures are in place to protect you, the church and the congregation?The measure that we really trust is our own security measures that we put in place for ourselves like the Catholic cadet, the Boys’ Brigade, the Blue Army (of Our Lady of Fatima) and other church paramilitary groups set up so that before anybody goes into the church, they are searched. We trust our security architecture more than we trust the military, the police and the Department of State Services. Sometimes, we have security agencies – the police, the DSS and even the military – moving round and even in order to ensure the safety of the churches. There’s a lot of financial burden now being placed on the church as a result of insurgency. They include the burden to rebuild the destroyed churches, to take care of those internally displaced persons and houses of pastors which have been destroyed, not to mention the care of families left behind by many deceased family members of the church and the protection of these churches.

There are many local churches that cannot take care of their pastors let alone take care of their own security. Many of the churches are being left at the mercy of God.Why have you decided not to relocate to another state?Many people have relocated as a result of insurgency, especially those who are not from the state. But again, indigenes of Adamawa State who are clerics have not relocated except in places where security is still volatile and nobody can go there. Some persons have asked whether I ever contemplated leaving Yola at the height of the insurgency. But I have always told them I would have been the last Christian to ever contemplate leaving after all other Christians must have left.

Leah Sharibu is still in captivity. Do you think the government has done enough to secure her release?To be honest and sincere, the government has not done enough. And I have yet to know why. The government did everything possible and the other Dapchi girls were released. But this girl – Leah Sharibu – just because of her faith and the fact that she’s a Christian, is still being held in captivity. And the government has made a lot of promises but there’s no commitment on the part of government. Leah Sharibu is still in captivity because of lack of serious commitment from the government in order to release her.

Why do you think so?All the negotiations about her release are still not enough. We are not interested in what they are talking about. We want to see Leah Sharibu free like the other Dapchi girls.Some people have alleged that there are plans to ‘Islamise’ and ‘Fulanise’ the country, what do you think about that?

What is being said is not far from the truth, seeing the signs and the activities. It is left for one to draw conclusions. There are signs and people are not telling lies, and they are not only speculating. There are facts and the facts can be verified that there are efforts to Islamise the country. Or even if it is not the whole country, we know there are efforts to implement an agenda of Islam. It is very clear. In the first place, over the past five years, the kind of discrimination that has been witnessed in the appointment of service chiefs is a pointer to it. Most of them – 80 per cent or more of them are Muslims. What are they telling us? Are they saying there are no competent Christians in the military and others to be given appointment?

Here in the North, even if you are indigene of any local government, because of your Christian name, you can be denied admission, promotion and land to build a church. These are enough proofs to tell us that there are deliberate moves to ensure the Islamisation process is actualised. But by the grace of God, the Islamisation agenda will never succeed. We are praying against it and it will not succeed.

What appeal do you have for the government?My appeal to the government is that every Nigerian should be treated with equity and fairness.CopyrightPUNCH.All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from PUNCH.

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I don't see it sir. Punch at it again and many fools will fall victims How can killing of Christians be a blessing my brother? What does it take to read the interview, get a better understanding and then make precise comments? Nigerians, stop ridiculing yourselves with laughable and senseless comments,read the interview,then make informed comments. Stop commentg on the basis of the headline,stop! Funny!

Okay this man happens to be the Bishop of my Cathedral, he feeds and provides shelter to not less than 2000 IDPs, we now have a CAN Secretariat is thanks to Holy Spirit working through him. Kindly read through the interview and grasp his message They are getting killed!!! I think BKH should cut off this man's head also to share the disguised blessing to him, weaklings who can't rise to defend their faith fire for fire.

I wish then to be headed one of your love ones so you can receive the blessing too Go and receive the blessing Leah Sharibu Naming ceremony in Aso Rock next week. Nigerians are cordially invited. Having read the entire interview, I think I understood what the clergy meant but unfortunately, the headline of this story by is really absurd and misleading.

I totally disagree with this man. Boko Haram's killing of Christians can never be a blessing in disguise. It's a serious problem that unacceptable and should not be tolerated by anybody. Anyone come accross this headline should endeavor to read the whole story before he/she draw conclusion. Don't be mislead by the Punch catchy headline.

Blessing 4 u to tk over bah Lemme not say anything 😈 hmmm Boko haram has been proven to be enemies of the entire humanity, no Muslim, Christian or Hindu is spared by this wicked and heartless sect. Let us see it as it is and stop playing politics with security issues. BH is neither Christian nor Muslim, pdp or apc

Blessing in disguise my foot The way you headline your news is a blessing in disguise nonsense Our problems in Nigeria is that most of our youths don't have patience to read or get explanation before concluding. Typical ignorance for bad education He must be insane Blessing killi u dia😡😡 Wanne I swear u Rilli nid to taste from this so called blessing of urs🗡⚔

You should be added to the blessing too Dn't always run too fast people. the full interview and get the point being passed across. ....after reading, then come right in and make a new comment. Them for capture someone in your family so you can taste the blessings Shewa ok sir 🤷🏾‍♀️ And we are here slamming FemAdesina . So can love the way it is

What blessing?

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We won't engage Boko Haram for Nigeria, UN tells BuhariThis headline is misleading Punch, you guys can do better! U make it sound like they don't want any part of d issue when it's simply against their policy to engage with proponents of terrorism! Okay... I wonder what he use all the travels to achieve... not one deal sign.. can't even request for help even if it's just Intel.. he just dey tour the world 5years and counting. They know its political, so no point wasting anyone’s life over ... shame!