Militants set fire to church building
The Diocese of Maiduguri reported that militants connected with the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram set fire to the Catechetical Training Centre in Kaya, and burnt down another 22 buildings on Monday 11 June. One member of Boko Haram was killed during the raid during on a village in northwestern Nigeria, which was stopped by Nigerian security forces and a group of locals from the Adamawa State. Reports said the terrorists had been looking and searching for food.
The catechetical centre had only recently been rebuilt – it had been previously destroyed during a violent Boko Haram takeover of the region in 2014. Boko Haram militants have fought with government forces in the region since 2012.
Ahmad Sajoh, the Adamawa Commissioner of Information and Strategy, reassured local people that “the current operations by the security agencies are intended to ensure enhanced security situation all over the state ahead of the end of Ramadan Sallah celebrations.” He praised the people’s resilience and asked the public to remain calm and law-abiding.
Archbishop Valerian Okeke of Onitsha and a committee of the Nigerian bishops’ conference issued a statement in May condemning Islamic violence in the region, including attacks by Fulani herdsmen who massacred two priests and 16 parishioners in April.
“The Church in Nigeria is passing through a very trying time more than ever before. The recent massacre of two Catholic priests and some parishioners during Holy Mass in Benue State and similar killings in other parts of the country strike a deep note on the ears of the populace,” the statement said.
The statement said that poverty, unemployment, and the scarcity of schools across Nigeria were contributing to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. It called for broader educational efforts by the country’s government and by the Church and urged the setting up of sustainable empowerment programs aimed at reducing unemployment. “Government should be held accountable for the life of every citizen irrespective of religion or ethnic group” it stated. The statement also encouraged Catholics to “work closely with peace-loving Muslims to tackle the problem of injustice that fuels fundamentalism.”
Archbishop Okeke said:
“It is very important to see Islamic violence within the context of the historical evolution of the Nigerian State. The Church and other noble agencies should continue to correct the distorted historical narrative of fundamentalist’s ideology which identifies colonialism and western civilization with Christianity.”
“Understanding fundamentalists groups, their ideologies and how to counter these ideologies should an integral part of seminary formation and general Christian formation.”