VANCOUVER – In the 23 years since Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama became a bishop, he has not taken one day off from promoting dialogue and peace between Christians and Muslims.
“If there is anybody who should be advocating a violent response to Muslim attacks, it should be me,” he told The B.C. Catholic during his first visit to Canada June 7-14. “I have experienced it in my ethnic group and from my work as a priest. I should know. My people have died in front of me.”
In 2014, the world was shocked when more than 270 girls from the primarily Christian Nigerian town of Chibok were kidnapped by terrorist group Boko Haram, forced to convert and held for ransom.
It wasn’t an isolated incident, and violence, terrorism and corruption are still daily realities in Nigerian communities. In January, a mass funeral was held for 72 people killed during a fight between what appeared to be mostly Muslim cattle herders and mainly Christian farmers on New Year’s Day. About three months later, 19 Christians were killed when gunmen opened fire at Mass and set fire to about 50 homes in a remote village. Among the dead were two priests.
“It has always been a challenge. There has never been a peaceful moment,” said Kaigama, whose trip through several Canadian cities was sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need, a pontifical charity for Catholics suffering poverty or persecution.
Despite his anger, Kaigama says violence will only lead to more violence. So, since his ordination at the age of 36, he has been promoting peace and inter-religious dialogue. “Either we do something, or we perish together.”