Monday, January 30, 2012

"Sooner or later someone will have to talk to the Boko Haram" - Archbishop of Abuja

Up to 35,000 people have fled their homes in northern Nigeria after attacks from the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.  

They include a large number of Catholics who say churches have been destroyed.

"There is panic.  Many just leave everything behind, and run for safety, because they do not know when violence might flare up again," a source told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) on January 24. 

“It is the stated goal of Boko Haram to make the whole of the north free of Christians,” ACN was also told.  

At the beginning of January, group spokesman Abul Qaqa gave Christians living in the north a three-day ultimatum to leave.  

Boko Haram, which means, ‘western education is sinful’ in Nigeria’s Hausa language, has killed at least 935 people since it launched an uprising in 2009, according to Human Rights Watch.

Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja, federal capital of Nigeria stated in an interview with Fides, "Sooner or later someone will have to talk to the Boko Haram and I think those who can talk to them are those who share their own expectations, but not their methods. I realise that it is difficult to find common ground because neither the government nor the majority of Nigerians want an Islamic State. But we need to involve all political parties in a national dialogue to get out of this crisis in Nigeria."

The Archbishop explained that the political solution is necessary because it is impossible to guarantee everyone's safety in such a vast country.  For example, local police can be very isolated and easily attacked.  

The reach of Boko Harem also goes beyond the Nigerian borders and neighbouring Governments must be involved in any solution.

The Archbishop also cautioned against thinking that Nigeria will be divided between a Muslim north and a Christian south as this is not the reality of the country and it would be impossible to decide where the border is between North and South Nigeria.

“We have always said that talking about the north and south is not the same as talking about division between Islam and Christianity. There is a large number of Muslims in the south, in particular in the state of Yoruba, and a number much higher than what is being said, of Christians of the north, many of whom are indigenous. These latter, where should they go in case of division of the country,” asks the Archbishop.