Abuja, Nigeria, Apr 24, 2015 / 00:23 am
A bishop in Cameroon has sent out an urgent message that the militant Islamist group Boko Haram is increasingly spreading into his country – but that media around the world are paying no attention.
In a memorandum made available to the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Bruno Ateba of the Diocese of Maroua-Mokolo lamented that the violence perpetrated in northern Cameroon by Boko Haram has not drawn significant international attention.
“What happened in Paris during the attacks there is something we experience here every day,” he said, referencing the January massacre at a Franch satirical newspaper by Muslim extremists, “and yet nobody in the world says anything about it.”
“Instead, the attention of the world is focused above all on the Middle East,” the prelate said.
Boko Haram, which means “Western education is sinful,” launched an uprising in 2009 in an effort to impose sharia law on Nigeria. More than 6,000 people have died in Boko Haram-led violence in the country, according to Human Rights Watch.
In 2014, Boko Haram became known worldwide when members kidnapped nearly 300 girls from a school in Borno State. Last month, the group pledged its allegiance to ISIS – also known as the Islamic State – which launched a bloody campaign in Iraq and Syria last summer.
But while the world turns its focus to the Middle East, Boko Haram is infiltrating parts of Cameroon, Bishop Ateba warned.
The bishop said that in his diocese alone, since the last quarter of 2014, two senior diocesan staff, three catechists and more than 30 faithful have been murdered, and there have been numerous abductions.
He also said that numerous mosques have been burnt down and imams have had their throats cut, because “they refused to obey the orders of Boko Haram.”
Since as early as December 2013, the native Muslim community within Cameroon has adopted an increasingly clear stance against Boko Haram, he explained, and Muslims have often come to the aid of Christians threatened by the terror group that is “sowing panic” in northern Cameroon.
Just as it does in Nigeria, Boko Haram also recruits children in Cameroon, ages 5-15, enticing them with financial benefits for their families or simply abducting them by force, the bishop reported. This year alone, he said, no fewer than 2000 Cameroonian children and adolescents have been seized by Boko Haram – including a number of girls.
The infrastructure of the affected region – already one of the poorest in Cameroon – has been severly damaged. According to Bishop Ateba, the terror attacks have caused the closure of more than 110 schools and 13 health centers, while many police stations have been destroyed.
The Diocese of Maroua-Mokolo is today home to more than 55,000 displaced Cameroonians as well as refugees from Nigeria, he added. Many have sought shelter with friends and relatives, but more than 22,000 are still hiding in the bush.
The situation is particularly bad in the community of Amchidé, where a series of attacks by Boko Haram have caused the entire population to flee, the bishop explained. As a result, the pastoral activities in the area have come to a complete standstill. The chapel has been burned down and, according to eyewitness reports, there are human skulls lying in the streets.
Praising the courage of the faithful who continue to gather for prayer despite the dangerous sitaution, Bishop Ateba also addressed world leaders with a plea: “Today we beseech your attention, your prayers and your help.”
“Help us to bring an end to this nameless brutality that is destroying all hope for the future and bringing to nothing all the hard work of generations of believers.”