Nigeria, diocese of Maiduguri 2015
“BOKO HARAM: They may destroy our structures but not our faith. Our Faith is active and alive…..in persecution we are purified.” This was the statement on the lips of the bishop, Most Rev.Oliver Dashe Doeme and the internally displaced persons who had just returned to their communities.The Chief shepherd of the diocese took what he calls a consolation tour to some of the communities that have been recaptured by our prayers and the gallant effort of the joint task force of Niger, Chad and Cameroon, with the Nigerian military.
The bishop and priests encouraged the returnees in the Mass of Reconciliation and Reparation to remain steadfast despite the calamities that have befallen them. They must learn to forgive as Christ himself present in the Most Holy Sacrament had already forgiven the radical elements for their sacrileges, profanation and hate. The priests and bishop were in the confessional for over three hours in some communities visited.
Here: Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme inspecting a burnt church in Bahuli community in Catholic diocese of Maiduguri
Retreat days for priests in the diocese of Maiduguri, faced with the constant threat of Boko Haram
In recent years the diocese of Maiduguri in northeast Nigeria has been severely tried, for it is in one of the areas most hard-hit by the violence of the terrorist group Boko Haram. Beginning in 2009, no less than 100,000 people from this diocese have been forced from their homes through violence – with over 5,000 murders of Catholics and numerous churches, schools and hospitals – destroyed.
What followed a mystical experience
Toward the end of 2014, Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme had a moving mystical experience. While praying the Rosary before the Blessed Sacrament in his chapel, he had a vision of Jesus, who did not speak but appeared to offer him a sword. He reached out to take it, and at the very moment when he grasped hold of it, it turned into a Rosary. Then Jesus repeated three times: “Boko Haram has disappeared.”Recalling the experience afterwards, Bishop Dashe Doeme said, “It was clear to me that with the Rosary we could defeat Boko Haram.” At first he was reluctant to tell anyone about his experience, but then he felt impelled to do so by the Holy Spirit. He spoke about it first of all to the priests of his diocese.
… ultimately, revenge and retaliation can only lead to a vicious spiral of violence and war …
A few months later the situation did in fact improve. In the spring of 2015 a military unit of the Nigerian army, along with troops from Chad and Cameroon, succeeded in driving Boko Haram out of some of the towns and villages they had seized. Afterwards, some of the refugees were able to return to their homes.
Now the people have to start to rebuild their lives. Bishop Oliver is celebrating Masses of reconciliation and reparation to encourage his people to remain steadfast in their faith despite the suffering they have endured. He is also calling on them to follow the example of Christ and forgive the terrorists – to not be led astray by engaging in thoughts of vengeance, for ultimately, revenge and retaliation can only lead to a vicious spiral of violence and war, he tells them. He is convinced that healing will only be possible if the Catholic faithful forgive what is past and look forward with great hope and trust towards the future.
Last year, during Easter week, Bishop Oliver visited many of the parishes within his diocese, and he reports: “There was great longing among the faithful for prayer and Confession.” In many of these parishes the bishop and the priests accompanying him spent over three hours in the confessional, administering the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
The need is greater than ever now for priests to promote this process of healing and forgiveness. The Sacraments and the spiritual support they bring are more necessary than ever. But many of these priests have themselves suffered terrible experiences. In fact 26 of the 46 priests of the diocese of Maiduguri were among those forced to flee from the attacks by Boko Haram.
And so the bishop decided to organize a series of one-week retreats for his priests, where they could meet and pray together, exchange their experiences and strengthen one another in their priestly ministry and in fraternal fellowship. Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) helped to support this project with $6,670 CAN.
Bishop Oliver has written to us with these words for you, our benefactors: “On behalf of the whole diocese of Maiduguri I want to express my profound gratitude and regard to ACN for the enormous help you are providing for the suffering Catholic Church in the diocese of Maiduguri.”