NIGERIA – Catholics support Boko Haram victims
Since May, Nigeria’s military has rescued more than 600 women and girls from a Boko Haram stronghold in the Sambisa Forest, many of whom are now living in displacement camps. A large number of the women and girls who were rescued or escaped from the terrorist group Boko Haram are pregnant as a result of rape. According to the United Nations Population Fund, in Nigeria’s Borno State over 200 women and girls in displacement camps are pregnant, although it is not known how many of them had previously been abducted by Boko Haram.
Nigerian Catholics were swift to show solidarity and support for these rape victims. Local bishops issued a letter to show their concern and empathy and appealed to the women “ to keep faith in God Almighty who has given them the uncommon strength to face the trials and travails” and and urged them “to take solace and draw encouragement from the comfort that God has a purpose in their motherhood role for the innocent babies they now carry in their wombs”.
They declared that the Catholic Church in Nigeria was prepared to provide every form of support needed to accelerate the healing and rehabilitation of rape victims so that they can be resettled and reintegrated into society. Government agencies, civil society groups, faith-based organizations and dioceses are all helping to support these women.
NIgerian bishops called for the establishment of crisis pregnancy centers to help the victims of rape. They spoke out against the suggestion of mass abortions that some groups were advocating and rejected the idea that “killing the babies conceived through rape by terrorists is the most humane action to take.”
Catholic bishops declared that it was wrong to punish innocent babies for their fathers’ sins and crimes committed against their mothers, adding “How can we accept to visit capital punishment (death sentence by abortion) on young Nigerians simply because their fathers were misguided religious and ideological bigots? God forbid!”
Instead the bishops proposed that babies rescued from abortion would be adopted by the many generous Nigerians families who were willing to accept abandoned, rejected or orphaned babies.
The statement on behalf of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria was produced by Bishop Anselm Umoren, an auxiliary of the Diocese of Abuja who chairs the Nigerian bishops’ Health Committee.