Paul Samasumo – Vatican City
Barely, a few hours after Pope Francis’ Saturday tweets, urging prayers for northeast Nigeria, on the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a sizeable number of Nigerian military personnel attended Sunday Mass at the Madagali community parish in the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri. This is according to information made available to Vatican News’ English Africa Service by Fr. Gideon Obasogie of the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri.
The Mass became a thanksgiving event
It was an emotional Eucharistic celebration as the Madagali community Mass turned into a celebration of thanksgiving. The Nigerian military personnel, in attendance, had literally come from the front line following a week spent repelling a series of Boko Haram attempted attacks on the Madagali community.
Pope Francis is praying with us, says Parish Priest
The Parish Priest, Fr. Innocent Sunu encouraged the Military personnel to remain steadfast in protecting the vulnerable community. He reminded parishioners that they were not alone, but that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, and the Universal Church were praying and were united with them in their life of constant insecurity.
We are neglected by politicians
Fr. Sunu, however, said the state of insecurity in Nigeria and particularly in the northern regions was the result of neglect by politicians. With some bridges in the region recently washed away by heavy rains or destroyed by Boko Haram, the area could as well be considered “comfortably cut off from other towns,” said Fr. Sunu.
“The weak but faithful Christians here in the north (of Nigeria) have nothing much to say or do other than seek the intercession of our Mother of Hope -as prayed by the Holy Father. This is the only lifeline left for our people in a country where our political leaders seem to have fallen asleep at the wheel and have taken their eyes off the ball,” lamented the Madagali Parish Priest.
Madagali is near the Sambisa forest
Nigeria’s Madagali community has in the past been vulnerable to Boko Haram attacks because it is situated just a few kilometres from the infamous Sambisa forest that unfortunately has become synonymous with Boko Haram terrorists. Boko Haram has used the forest as its fortress and hiding place.
The insurgents have been waging deadly attacks against the Nigerian State in a bid to impose their brand of a religious government (Caliphate). In the process, Boko Haram has attacked civilians through killings, bombings, forced conscription and abductions of women and girls.
Abducted victims are often spirited away in the dense Sambisa forest. Over the last few years, the Nigerian military has, appeared to have gained a noticeable upper hand over the terrorists. Nonetheless, Boko Haram are relentless fighters who are still a significant menace to Nigerian society.
We thank God for sparing us from COVID-19
Turning to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the Madagali Parish Priest, Fr. Sunu, thanked God that, so far, the community had been spared the worst.
“We give thanks to God for His care as we have been protected against the Coronavirus. The world is experiencing a global pandemic, but we have been saved in this our little village. If COVID-19 cases come here, the numbers would hit the roof, and we would all be history because the health care facilities here are as good as non-existent,” said the Parish Priest.