Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, Nigeria, president of the Nigerian bishops' conference, speaks in Manchester, England, Nov. 6 on his country's Ebola efforts and contrasting with its lack of aggression in addressing Islamic extremism. CNS photo/Simon Caldwell

Archbishop says Nigeria must find political will to stop Islamist militants

By  Simon Caldwell, Catholic News Service
  • November 7, 2014

MANCHESTER, England - The president of the Nigerian bishops' conference said his country's government could defeat the Boko Haram Islamist militant group if it could muster the same political will it found to fight Ebola.

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, Nigeria, suggested that the government could end the group's attacks on Christians and civilians if it really wanted to in a Nov. 6 lecture at the Jesuit-run Church of Holy Name in Manchester.

"Since the Nigerian government is successfully fighting the Ebola disease, it can equally, with strong political will, fight the religious fundamentalism which threatens the very soul of Nigeria," he said.

He argued that most Muslims in Nigeria do not support the activities of Boko Haram, which has bombed or torched dozens of churches and public spaces since 2009. The archbishop said the Nigerian government "should be able to provide a level ground for harmonious co-existence and good relations" between such people and Christians.

"What do we want of our government?" he asked. "I love my country and I love my leaders, but what do we want them to do?

"We want the Nigerian government to stop the activities of this military group, which continues to create mayhem, to create chaos and to anarchy in parts of Nigeria," Kaigama said.

"We want the government to help the people who have been displaced so that they can return to their homes," he added, "homes taken over by this this militant group."

Kaigama said the Church also wanted the Nigerian military to locate and liberate more than 200 female students abducted by Boko Haram earlier this year.

The archbishop was in Britain as a guest of the United Kingdom branch of Aid to the Church in Need and was present in the House of Lords on Nov. 4 when the charity presented its 2014 Religious Freedom Report. The document listed Nigeria as one of 20 countries in the world where religious persecution is high, including 14 that are facing severe challenges from Islamic extremists.

In his talk, Kaigama told the audience that relationships between Christians and Muslims generally were good and that he has supported several initiatives to foster interfaith dialogue.

Boko Haram, he said, was active in only two of 36 Nigerian states but was able to exert an influence far beyond its number.

In April, Boko Haram militants abducted 276 girls from Chibok Government Girls Secondary School in Borno state in the northeast of the country. More than 200 girls remain missing.

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