Abuja - The Catholic Church said more than 500 members, including over 170 children, had been killed due to the insurgency in the Northeast region of the country.
The church said that over 500 women had been widowed and more 1 500 children orphaned since the beginning of the crisis in 2009.
Director of Catholic Social Communications, Maiduguri Diocese of the church, Rev Fr. Gideon Obasogie, said over 90 000 persons had been displaced and over 50 churches and rectories burnt down by the insurgents.
Obasogie lamented that the churches in Pulka, Bama, Gamboru Ngala, Maffa, Gubio, Damasak, Madayi, Baga, Pulka, Gwoza, Madagali, Gulak, Shuwa, Michika, Bazza, Mishara and Mubi have been under siege, which amounted to over 100 parishes, churches, outstations ; local churches and small Christian communities that had been attacked.
He also revealed that some local churches within Potiskum and Damaturu, both in Yobe state had also been adversely affected.
“The Church in Chakawa, an outstation of St. Denis was attacked during Sunday service, sometime in January 25, where the church was burnt down and over 60 members met their death. The Minor Seminary in Shuwa, was attacked in February 26. The school was burnt down, but thanks to God, no seminarian was killed.”
Obasogie said the three states of Yobe, Adamawa and Borno, all under emergency rule, that cover the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri had "for some time now not only become a theatre of violence but have snowballed into an abode of terrorists and blood bath.
“The adverse effects of these incessant attacks of Boko Haram on churches, rectories and on the faithful can be seen clearly in the dwindling number and the mass exodus of people from the area. Every aspect of the diocese is shrinking by the day. The number of masses celebrated in large parishes has drastically reduced.”
He lamented that lately, the terrorists occupied St. Denis Catholic Church in Madagali.
"Catholic faithful are leaving for safety as the church in Maiduguri is really facing a serious moment of fierce persecution. They (terrorist) for now are threatening to conquer Maiduguri city the capital of Borno State.”
The clergyman also painted a gory picture of happening to the church's school in the area, which include 23 primary schools and 10 secondary schools.
He named the affected schools as St. Joseph’s Minor Seminary, Shuwa, St. Joseph Nursery and Primary school Gamboru Ngala, St. Michael's Nursery and Primary School Maiduguri.
Obasogie lamented that all the schools in the areas under the control of the insurgents have been closed down with over 15 schools adversely affected.
He revealed that all the schools in the diocese have been adversely affected as many people had to relocate to different parts of the country and as such causing decimation.
The Reverend Father also lamented that most teachers have fled and left teaching.
"Some schools had to retrench teachers in order to meet up with the payment of salaries. For some schools the salaries had to be slashed down as the school fees could not pay the salaries."
“Regarding their safety a lot of teachers are leaving in fears. Sometimes we watch the circumstances and the security situation. Where the threats are high we close down the schools for a while, then resume when the conditions are better”.
Obasogie said as a result of the siege on the church, the Bishop Most Rev. Dr Oliver Dashe Doeme, had formed a widows association to make them self- sustaining and to protect them from their host communities.
"Most times the weak widows fall prey to their host."
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The priest added that the St Judith's Widows Association, established as a result of the growing widows, was a Diocesan initiative to assist the poor widows both spiritually and otherwise.
Obasogie said it was is heart-aching to see the alarming number of widows, hear their stories and see the kind of life situation they find themselves.
“The diocese is bringing them together, that they may have a platform to share their challenges, and to assist them in whatever way possible to make them self -sustaining. Before now we had an empowerment workshop for a couple of them and the feedback was glorious.”
- CAJ News