THE Archbishop of Canterbury paid a whistle-stop visit to
Nigeria on Wednesday, to pray with the President, Goodluck
A statement from Lambeth Palace said that the Archbishop made
the "last-minute" visit to "offer his heartfelt sympathy for the
recent events affecting the country", including the recent bombings
in Jos, and the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls last month
The Archbishop has previously condemned the kidnapping as an
"atrocious and inexcusable act", and called for the schoolgirls to
be released immediately, unharmed (News, 9
On the Radio 4 programme Today on Friday, he described
the "deep sense of unease" that he had encountered in Nigeria, "and
the sense that the country is facing a very major crisis
The conflict in the north-east of Nigeria was "an
extraordinarily difficult situation to get on top of", he
"You've got to realise this is an area about the size of
Scotland . . . of woods and forest and hills. . . The Boko Haram
are a group of the utmost evil. The militants who are dealing out
death right left and centre without hesitation and without mercy,
concentrating a lot on Christian churches, but also attacking
Muslims in the local population in vast numbers."
A number of Anglican diocese had "essentially been scatted", he
said, and bishops forced to leave their area.
The "key thing" that people could do was to pray: "Prayer
changes things. As a Christian I am deeply, deeply convinced of
On Saturday, an "emergency" conference for church leaders on the
crisis in Nigeria is being held in London. Pastor Fred Williams,
one of the organisers, said on Tuesday that Nigeria was "at war",
and that the international community was only just realising
"It is shocking that all of a sudden they are now getting
involved," Mr Williams, a film producer for Christian Concern, said
on Tuesday. "What happened all these years? Why has there not been
an outcry? Five hundred children were massacred not too far from
Jos. . . I think we have been desensitised, as if those killed in
certain areas do not deserve attention until certain people make a
Mr Williams, who moved to Nigeria in 1985, and continues to
minister to churches that have been attacked, believes that the
international community has "misdiagnosed the global terror growing
in Nigeria. "While being attacked in Jos [years ago], I remember
hearing on the BBC and CNN that Christians and Muslims were
fighting, but that was not the case. We were being attacked."
While he is pleased that bloggers have used social media to
highlight the abduction of the schoolgirls last month (News, 2
May), Mr Williams points out that Boko Haram has "regularly
kidnapped girls and abducted them for sex slaves".
Boko Haram has powerful support both within and outside Nigeria,
Mr Williams says. "They have funding and support from within the
Nigeria northern core leadership, as well as outside the country.
That is very controversial. There are people who believe that
Nigeria should be Islamised. It's very sensitive, but the earlier
we start addressing this the better."
On Tuesday, the Nigerian military denied reports that ten
generals had been charged with colluding with Boko Haram. Also
speaking at Saturday's conference will be the team leader for
Africa and the Middle East at Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Dr
On Wednesday, she endorsed Mr Williams's assertion that Nigeria
was at war. "Boko Haram are the visible problem at the moment, but
it is the outcome of an enabling environment in which Christians
have been marginlaised for decades," she said.
"There is a tendency to almost distort the news in these areas,
particularly in terms of religious violence and freedom. Even this
story [the kidnapping] is being distorted into an attack on the
government, when questions should be asked about the government of
the state, which allowed these [school] examinations to take place
next to the forest where Boko Haram are known to hang out, without
She suggested that the tide may be turning against Boko Haram,
which had been harboured by some communities: "The violence is so
indiscriminate and horrific now that it has become almost mindless.
It is actually possibly opening up a space in which religious
violence and such issues can be discussed, and national unity might
be able to become a reality above and beyond religious creed."
Reuters reports that attacks by Boko Haram have killed at least
500 civilians since the the abduction on 14 April. On Sunday, nine
people were killed in an attack on a church in Attangara, in the
Gwoza hills, in north-east Nigeria. Another 18 people were killed
in the bombing of a bar in Mubi, in Adamawa state.
On Tuesday, Mr Williams said that the Church, not the
government, held the key to tackling the problem.
"There is something more powerful than terrorism, and that is
the love of God," he said. "Reaching out to love the victims and
communities . . . and to invest in building back those communities,
and confronting the ideology of hatred of radical Islam with
He praised the example of his missionary friend, who had "laid
down his life" in Jos. After his death, his colleagues had gone
into a Muslim community to build a computer centre, on the
principle that "if we go and educate and love the younger ones
coming up, there will be no foot-soldiers - it's a briliant
This week, the Sunday Times reported that a former
director of the International Centre for Reconciliation at Coventry
Cathedral, Canon Stephen Davis, had spent the past month working in
Nigeria to help free the kidnapped schoolgirls.
Canon Davis, who worked alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury
on reconciliation in Nigeria, told the newspaper: "There are
severalgroups to deal with, as the girls are held in several camps.
This makes any thought of a rescue highly improbable."
Collapse Fifteen people were killed when a
building under construction by the Church of Nigeria collapsed on
Tuesday. The News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, reported that the
four-storey building was to serve as classrooms for the primary
school of St Christopher's, Odoakpu, in Onisha. The
Vanguard newspaper reported that most of the 15 victims