NIGERIA (ACN): Nigeria could stand on the brink of radical Islamisation, a leading development official in the country said.
Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need, the charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, Fr Obiora Ike, who is director of the Catholic Institute for Development, Justice and Peace in Nigeria’s Enugu state, warned of the “talibanisation” of the African country.
His words came soon after clashes between radical Islamist movement Boko Haram (“Education is Sinful”) and security forces during which he estimated at least 500 people were killed.
Fr Ike said the country has reached a “new level” of violence following the recent attacks in the north of Nigeria that occurred between July 24 and 29.
The clashes with security forces followed attacks by Boko Haram on police stations in four states in retaliation for the arrests of the leaders of the group, which is demanding the imposition of Shari’a law.
The violence began in the predominantly Muslim Bauchi state in the north of Nigeria, before spreading to nearby Yobe, Kano and Borno states.
In Borno more than 100 people died during attacks on churches by radical Islamists on July 27 and 28.
“So far Islamists have proceeded almost exclusively against Christians, but now new radical groups have formed which are proceeding against all ‘western agencies’ and also against other Muslims,” Fr Ike said.
Since 2000, 12 of Nigeria’s 36 states in the north have begun enforcing Shari’a law, not only in family law but also in criminal matters. Zamfara State has also set up an Imam Council.
Fr Ike said the rise of Boko Haram may foreshadow the formation of a large movement, which was spreading rapidly across the country.
He warned how the group regarded western schools and universities as “decadent”.
Fr Ike also fears that the current unrest could spread, destabilising Kano state and its 12 million inhabitants.
The priest called on western governments to support Nigeria in the fight against militant Islamists and to help with providing education and reducing poverty.
Fr Ike said the current problems were caused by “lack of education, lack of work, absence of skills, lack of money and lack of jobs which extends to lack of meaning in life”.
“These lead to ideological abuse and the hijacking of the youth by terrorists,” he said.
Fr Ike asked for prayers for the troubled region: “May we ask for your prayers as we continue on this side to work for peace and healing for Nigeria and the world.”