Oliver Dashe Doeme, Bishop of Maiduguri in northeastern Nigeria, minced no words this weekend in speaking of the atrocities of the jihadist group Boko Haram, which he called a “demonic cult.”
“Boko Haram is evil, demonic, and can only be removed through prayer,” Doeme said at an international conference on religious freedom in Madrid titled “We are all Nazarenes #WeAreN2015.”
“The Islamization of Nigeria is without doubt the main reason for the emergence of Boko Haram,” the bishop reflected in an interview before the conference. “The Constitution of Nigeria defends the rights and freedom of worship for all Nigerians. But this is true on paper, not in practice.”
Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, is at the heart of the Boko Haram “caliphate” and has received the brunt of the Islamists’ fury. Our diocese, said Doeme, “is the most affected. Over 700 members of our congregation have been killed in the many massacres perpetrated by terrorist insurgents.”
The bishop went on to enumerate some of the atrocities, including the destruction of 50 churches and 59 primary schools, 15 parish rectories and 40 convents of religious sisters.
“Despite all this, we do not give up our public witness to our faith,” Doeme said. “I wear my episcopal robes publicly, because on the day I agreed to be bishop I knew I was signing my death sentence,” he said.
In 2009, “we witnessed the emergence of Boko Haram, a demonic cult, which arose to ban Western education.” The explanation of how they could have gone so far requires following the money trail, the bishop suggested. The terrorist group “has funding and very powerful backers both inside and outside the country,” he said.
Bishop Doeme received international attention this past January when he called for Western military intervention to put a stop to the relentless advance of Boko Haram in his country. “The West should bring in security – land forces to contain and beat back Boko Haram,” he said at the time. “A concerted military campaign is needed by the West to crush Boko Haram.”
Doeme said that Boko Haram is strategically superior and better trained than the Nigerian army, which has proved incapable of standing up to Boko Haram forces, and the only viable option remaining is recourse to the West.
The bishop places more hope in the power of prayer than the power of politics, though he welcomes the results of the recent elections, which ousted sitting president Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, in favor of a Muslim. “Having a Christian president has not been helpful,” he said, “because it is a lazy government indifferent to the plight of Christians in the northeast.”
He said that “Nigeria is a very rich country, but unfortunately one of the most corrupt in the world.” Nonetheless, Doeme described the recent peaceful elections as an expression of “God’s love for our country.”
Doeme has great confidence in the intercession of the Virgin Mary and the power of the rosary prayer. One day, he said, “while praying before the Eucharist, God offered me a sword. When I went to seize it, it became a rosary,” he said.
The bishop also added that Africa is not alone in suffering the advance of evil. “In Europe and America you have your own demons,” he said: “abortion, homosexual pseudo-marriage, and secularism.”
The bishop ended on a hopeful note. “We are seeing the end of Boko Haram,” he said. “Our faith is unwavering: even when they suffer killings, Christians still go to church and Christian activities in public life continue.”
“They can destroy our buildings and our lives, but they cannot destroy our faith in Christ,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome