Currents News Staff
Violence is on the rise in Nigeria as abuses by militant groups like Boko Haram and the Fulani Herdsmen continue to plague Africa’s largest economy making it one of the continent’s poorest nations. Something Auxiliary Bishop Ernest Obodo is battling to overcome.
“The greatest challenge we have is the security of lives and properties. The people are no longer safe and they feel very unsafe,” said Obodo.
Obodo serves the Diocese of Enugu in south-east Nigeria where 1.3 of its 1.8 million Christians are Catholic. Many of them are afraid of the escalating religious persecution being fueled by religious and ethnic divisions.
“The activities are known to the people. They come to villages, especially Christian villages. They kill people. Then they escape and nobody is apprehended,” he said.
While Boko Haram’s terrorist activity is known throughout the world, in southern Nigeria where Chrisitans are in the majority, there’s an emerging threat, hordes of nomadic cattle herders from the mostly Muslim Fulani ethic group are ramping up attacks on Christians. And Bishop Obodo says no one is exempt.
“This is a picture of my priest. A 49 year old priest. Father Paul Offu. He was gunned down by a suspected Fulani herdman. He was just going for a mass and people came from the bush and shot sporadically at his car. He managed to continue and after some time his car couldn’t move again. He got up and got out to run into the bush and they followed him and killed him on the spot,” said Obodo.
Bishop Obodo blames the inaction of the government and wide-spread corruption for the skyrocketing violence.
According to Open Doors, a group that tracks violence against Christians in over 70 countries, there have been 9 thousand to 11 and a half thousand Christians killed between 2006-2014. And there have been more than 13 thousand churches destroyed in northern Nigeria alone.
Now, the church in Nigeria is urging the faithful to act, demanding action from their political leaders but also taking security into their own hands.
“Every parish is secured by its own people because the government is doing more or less than helping the situation so we are saying we must constitute security for ourselves,” said Obodo.
And as he prays for a peaceful Nigeria, he continues the fight unafraid and full of hope.
“I am not afraid because I have faith. Faith in God. And his faith propels me.”