NIGERIA: Supporting widows and orphans

Christians from Maiduguri Diocese, Nigeria in a displacement camp because of Boko Haram violence (© Aid to the Church in Need)
Christians from Maiduguri Diocese, Nigeria in a displacement camp because of Boko Haram violence (© Aid to the Church in Need)

Vital assistance from a leading Catholic charity is to be provided for Nigerian widows and orphans who lost loved ones in violence perpetrated by Islamist militants Boko Haram.

Aid to the Church in Need has agreed a £63,000 (70,000 euros) package of food parcels and schooling for 1,000 orphans, and counselling for 500 widows, many of whom saw their husbands killed by the jihadi fighters.

The aid for the persecuted Christians is going to the Diocese of Maiduguri, in north-east Nigeria, the area worst affected by Boko Haram which has repeatedly declared its intent to rid the area of Christians.

Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme of Maiduguri told ACN that the money will go to the large families who “have been struggling through life with great traumatic experiences”.

With most families having more than six children, the bishop has established St Judith’s Widow Association to ensure the support fulfils each family’s needs.

Each widow will be receiving training with business skills, such as farming and tailoring, and adult education programmes.

Boko Haram has destroyed 25 schools in the diocese since 2009. The terrorist organisations name means “Western education is forbidden”.

Bishop Doeme stressed the importance of ACN’s grant for orphans’ schooling.

He said: “[I]t is mostly the children living in the eastern part of the diocese who will benefit from this, as this part is the most affected and the poorest.”

On an ACN fact-finding and project-assessment trip to north-east Nigeria in March, Church sources reported that extremists had killed more than 20,000 people across the region.

Among those ACN met on the trip was Agnes, 40, a widow, who is raising nine children after her husband was shot dead by the extremists for refusing to convert to Islam.

She explained how her husband, a builder, was working outside a house when Boko Haram surrounded all the people and shot them dead.

Agnes said the terrorists refused to allow family members to recover the bodies and that no burial was possible.

She said: “[Boko Haram] just left the bodies to rot there.”

Thanking the charity for the ongoing support, Bishop Doeme said: “I wish, on behalf of all the Christians suffering in this part of the world, to thank you at Aid to the Church in Need for recognising and acknowledging our sufferings, our difficulties, our troubles, our pains and our hardships, and for standing by us in this challenging moment.”

Since 2014 the charity has been providing emergency aid for refugees who have fled across the border to Cameroon to escape the extremists.