rchbishop Ignatius Kaigam
In an interview with Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop Kaigama said that, despite the attack outside St John’s Catholic Cathedral, in the northern city of Bauchi, the Christian faithful would not be deterred from practising their religion.
In the second attack against Christians in Bauchi within a week, the dead included a boy, a young woman and the suicide bomber who reportedly rammed his car into a security barrier outside the cathedral.
Nobody has yet admitted responsibility for the attack but Archbishop Kaigama described it as “typical” of Islamist group Boko Haram who since 2010 has reportedly killed 1,400 people in attacks on churches, government and security buildings, and markets.
Speaking yesterday, Monday (24th Sept) against a backdrop of frequent suicide bomb attacks on churches across the country, Archbishop Kaigama, said: “We are very unhappy with the government’s record on tackling the violence.”
Archbishop Kaigama, who is president of Nigeria’s Catholic bishops’ conference, added: “The government and the security services do not seem to be able to find out who is responsible for these attacks. I do not feel that they have got to the root of the matter.”
“Unless the individuals are identified, we will continue to go round in circles and the violence will occur again and again. The government is not on top of the security situation.”
Calling on the government to step up security, he added: “The government say they are handling the matter and that the police are taking action but I do not see any improvement.
“People cannot assemble freely. Until people can gather freely, it will be very difficult to see a way forward.”
But the archbishop said the Christian faithful refused to be cowed by the militants, adding: “There is anger; there is fear and anxiety – everything – a real mixture of emotions.
“People somehow have become much stronger. If there is any event in that cathedral over the coming days, you can be sure that it will be full. No matter what, the people will not give into Boko Haram and other extremists. They have a courage and a determination to go back to church regardless of the dangers.”
Archbishop Kaigama said the death toll would have been far higher had security precautions not been in place including barricades at the gates of the cathedral and phased dispersal of people after Mass.
He said: “There would have been more casualties but people are now security conscious. It was the first batch of people going out of the cathedral who were attacked. Luckily they were not so many.”
The archbishop described his sadness at what he called “the indoctrination” of young suicide bombers, saying: “It is difficult to imagine a Nigerian deciding he is prepared to die like this. Before, it would never have happened here. Nigerians love life. They suffer and smile.”
Aid to the Church in Need (UK) has invited Archbishop Kaigama as a keynote speaker at its annual Westminster Event on Saturday, 20 October starting with Mass at 10.30am. Also expected is Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, Syria.
For more information about the event in Westminster Cathedral and the cathedral hall, see: http://www.acnuk.org/events.php/264/