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Nigerian prelate: Church tries to keep Boko Haram victims from despair

January 23, 2015
Simon Caldwell

MANCHESTER, England – What do Nigerian church leaders say to a woman who, pregnant and fleeing Boko Haram extremists, realizes that she is not physically capable of escaping with both of her two other children and has to abandon one of them?

This kind of situation – which formed a theme of the 1982 movie “Sophie’s Choice,” in which a mother had to choose which of her children was sent to a Nazi death camp – is being played out in real life in Nigeria, said Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos.

“Priests are working hard to help the families of the victims spiritually, through prayers and counseling,” Archbishop Kaigama said in a Jan. 19 email to Catholic News Service.

Referring to the pregnant woman and her choice, he said: “Such a woman would be seriously traumatized. Priests try to help in whatever way possible.”

The archbishop said one of the biggest challenges facing the church is to try to stop victims of Boko Haram, a Muslim militant group in northeast Nigeria, from falling into despair.

“The activities of Boko Haram are faith-threatening,” Archbishop Kaigama said. “The people are wounded and full of questions. At this point, there is nothing more than giving them hope. The church identifies with them in their pain and gives them a sense of belonging.

“Through homilies, pastoral letters, visits to refugee camps and one-on-one interactions and prayers, we encourage one another with the understanding that we are in it together,” he said. “Our faith tells us that as members of Christ’s body, an injury to one part is an injury to all. Now more than ever Scripture, which is the bedrock of our Christian faith, is calming and soothing.”

The church in Nigeria is “on her knees,” praying for “God’s intervention on the multidimensional security challenges plaguing the country as a result of the activities of the nefarious Boko Haram sect,” he added.

In mid-January, President Goodluck Jonathan, who is seeking re-election Feb. 14, met the Nigerian Catholic bishops to discuss “national issues.”

Archbishop Kaigama said that the “top of the agenda” for the bishops was the “need for the government to revise its strategy to confront the menace of Boko Haram.”


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