A bishop whose diocese in north-east Nigeria has suffered at the hands of Boko Haram wants the West to send in military forces to defeat the militants.
Describing how Boko Haram was now recruiting from countries across north Africa, Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme of Maiduguri said that Western military intervention was the only viable option in the fight against the militants.
In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, the Catholic charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, the bishop said Nigeria’s 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 the town of 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 – it demanded a repeat of the French campaign of early 2013 to force Islamists out of parts of Mali, also in west Africa.
The bishop 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”.
He said: “Among the soldiers, there were sympathisers with Boko Haram – some of them were even Boko Haram members and many of them just ran away.”
The bishop also called for the arrest of clandestine foreign backers of Boko Haram, adding: “The [Nigerian] government knows who are sponsoring Boko Haram.”
The bishop described how within five years the militants have decimated his diocese with more than 50 churches and chapels destroyed and more than 200 churches abandoned.
He said that 1,000 of his faithful have been killed, many of them by Boko Haram.
Bishop Dashe Doeme said: “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.”
Describing how since 2009, nearly 70,000 of the 125,000 Catholics in Maiduguri had fled their homes, he appealed for help for the faithful who are taking refuge in displacement camps.
He thanked Aid to the Church in Need for providing €45,000 (£34,500) in emergency aid for displaced people from his diocese.
The charity has also given €37,000 (more than £28,000) as Mass stipends for the priests of Maiduguri diocese, half of whom have taken refuge in neighbouring Yola diocese in eastern Nigeria.
He said: “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.”