Bishop Bagobiri also noted, according to the Vanguard, that Christians have a "grave duty" to use “moderate and proportionate force” to defend their families against Islamic groups such as Boko Haram, which is responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians since 2009.
Boko Haram became internationally known after it staged a mass kidnapping of more than 250 Nigerian schoolgirls in April. Only one has reportedly escaped in nearly five months.
Not fighting back is a “gross act of irresponsibility," the bishop said at a Sunday reception, pointing out that “Christian communities that observe absolute pacifism have all ceased to exist.”
Bishop Bagobiri invoked church teaching on “legitimate defense” in his remarks, noting that the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes it as an act of love towards oneself; and carried out out in defense of God’s gift to life, [of] which we are merely custodians. The theological authorities of the Church are emphatic: Love towards oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality.
“Therefore, it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow,” Bishop Bagobiri said.
"The Magisterium is further explicit on this subject matter when it teaches that ‘legitimate defense’ can not only be a right but [a] grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others,” the bishop emphasized. “The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm.
However, he continued,“it must be stated clearly here that in light of the above official church statement, that the exercise of self-defense...is [not] to be seen as an act of vengeance or vendetta."
Bishop Bagobiri's statement is part of the public outcry church leaders in Nigeria have made against Boko Haram’s persecution of Christians.
On Monday, the Nigerian Catholic Church released a statement: “As a church, we are really going through a severe moment of persecution,” particularly in the three Northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa."
The statement was signed by Rev. Fr. Gideon Obasogie, director of social communication for the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri, who lamented the fact that “in the last few weeks our churches numbering 154 have been deserted.
“While our people perish, inaction, or rather slow action is what we get. Political activities in neighbouring communities are ongoing as though nothing is at stake,” Obasogie added.
In a September statement released to Vatican Radio, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), complained that "as Nigeria tragically bleeds and burns,” the Nigerian government is not doing enough to stop Boko Haram.
"In the face of this Boko Haram group and other criminal militias arming themselves beyond our legitimate government, and brazenly killing innocent, defenseless citizens, our government must do more than it is currently doing to safeguard our lives and defend our nation,” they said while declaring a national all-night prayer vigil on Nov. 13th to ask for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“While Muslims are sometimes targets of these destructive attacks, Christians, churches and non-Muslims in general are the principal targets for extermination, expropriation and expulsion by the Boko Haram insurgents, the perpetrators of all these destructions,” they emphasized.
The Nigerian bishops added that they are “really alarmed at the scale of human and material destruction, and the disruption of village and community life with increased levels of hatred and potentials for more conflicts in the nation.”