Archbishop of Kaduna on the situation of Christianity in his homeland
Even though the government has initiated efforts to regain control over the areas occupied by Boko Haram, attacks on Christians and their communities take place regularly, particularly in the northeastern parts of the country. Matthew Man-Oso Ndagoso most recently visited his former diocese in Maiduguri on 2nd November of last year. Two days later, another attack was carried out. Today’s archbishop of Kaduna escaped with his life, “but once again, there were many fatalities – attacks such as these make our day-to-day lives very uncertain,” Ndagoso said. According to international statistics, there are currently almost 1.8 million displaced persons in Nigeria; this number grew by at least 140,000 people last year alone on account of ongoing attacks. Focus of the attacks are primarily markets and churches; however, Ndagoso said that mosques have also been targeted lately. “Terrorist groups pretend as though they would like to pray. They mingle among those gathered in places where one would normally not suspect bomb attacks.” This spreads confusion. According to the archbishop, some of the greatest problems today are abductions and demands for ransom payments.
More groups have in the meantime radicalised, including members of the Fulani, a nomadic, pastoral people. It is conspicuous that they are outfitted with modern weapons – a circumstance that indicates that “powerful forces with connections to terrorist organisations such as IS and Al-Qaeda are behind groups such as these,” Ndagoso explained. However, no matter how hard Christians are hit by the attacks, “they just grow stronger in their faith.” Not only the number of students enrolled at the seminaries in Nigeria has grown, but also the number of Christians overall. “Over the past four years, I have opened at least three new parishes per year,” reported the archbishop of Kaduna. And that although his diocese in northern Nigeria is located in what is anything but an easy environment for Christians. They are a minority living among a Muslim majority, in areas governed in part by Islamic Sharia law. Attacks on churches are a regular occurrence. Building projects for new churches are not approved. The house in Maiduguri in which Ndagoso once lived as bishop was destroyed by Boko Haram. The terrorist group was formed in a mosque in the neighbourhood of the bishop’s house.
The activities of Boko Haram are like “a wake-up call” for the Christians in his diocese, Ndagoso said. He gave the example of a church in the city of Kaduna that became the target of an attack in 2012 that killed several and wounded over a hundred. Three services a week were held there before the attack, now Holy Mass is celebrated almost every day. The number of faithful has tripled since the attack. Funding from Aid to the Church in Need has made it possible to rebuild the once destroyed pastoral centre nearby.
As regards the role of Christians in his country, Ndagoso emphasised, “We have to be as patient as God has been with all people for millennia – time and again we must take the initiative ourselves, we must take a stand for truth – because our God is a God of peace and not of violence.”
Government agencies have now allocated relief goods to the church for further distribution among displaced persons because of the transparency of the aid work carried out by Christians in the northeastern part of Nigeria.