Nigerian Bishops Call for Better Government Response to Radicals

Say Administration Has Had Enough Time to Make a Strategy for Dealing With Islamist Fundamentalists

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JOS, Nigeria, MAY 2, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The leader of Nigeria's bishops is criticizing the government's response to the growing threat from radical Islamist groups, saying Christians are increasingly at risk of attack.

Archbishops Ignatius Kaigama, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria, along with Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja spoke with Aid to the Church in Need about the plight of Christians in the country, and how the government is handling the situation.

The statement came after at least 21 people were killed and more than 20 others were injured last Sunday in coordinated attacks targeting worship services at a university campus in Kano, and a chapel in Maiduguri belonging to the Church of Christ in Nigeria.

The violence is the latest in a series of attacks on Sunday worshipers but, in a sign that the situation has worsened, Christians at Bayero University chapel were gunned down while trying to escape the scene. 

Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Both bishops said they had lost patience with the government’s efforts to stem the crisis caused by Boko Haram and other militant groups.

Archbishop Onaiyekan told Aid to the Church in Need, “At first we were ready to be patient with the government when it was saying that this kind of Islamic terrorism is new. They have had adequate time to learn how to deal with this situation, gathering intelligence about those directly involved and bring them to justice."

The archbishop said the government was too divided “to muster the political will” to deal with the crisis.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Kaigama said, “The rampant attacks show that government security is not working."

“Why the government cannot identify the people involved baffles the imagination. We pay tax money and we have a right to know what is being done about the problem” he added. 

Archbishop Kaigama, whose northern diocese of Jos has been among those worst affected by radical Islamist violence, spoke of those killed at the university as "the hope of our country." 

"It defies all logic. They were people trying to build a better country," he stated.

Radical Islamist group Boko Haram, which has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks, is said to have killed at least 450 people this year alone in violence targeting not just churches but also government offices, police buildings and markets.

In one of the worst attacks, 44 people were killed and more than 80 were injured on Christmas Day last year when a suicide bomber targeted St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madalla, just outside the capital of Nigeria.

Last month, a Boko Haram spokesman reportedly said the radical terrorist group had declared “a war on Christians” aimed at “eradicating” them from parts of the country.