Published 12:00 am Friday, May 4, 2012

By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — A Nigerian bishop said Friday “fear and trepidation” are widespread in his country as Boko Haram, an Islamist group associated with the terrorist group al-Qaida, continues violent attacks.
“This is a day of terror,” said Chuka Ekemam, presiding bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church’s eastern West Africa Episcopal District. “A day when people in Nigeria are suffering the greatest atrocities committed by a segment of society.”
Ekemam sought support from the church Friday during a meeting at Livingstone College.
“In the past nearly two years, they have been harassing the entirety of the northern section of Nigeria, particularly the Christians,” he said. “Churches, schools, universities and hospitals have not been spared. They’ve been destroyed.
“The people of Nigeria are calling for help, calling for prayers, calling for the world to rise up and support us against the atrocities.”
Bishop James McCoy, chairman of the church’s overseas missions department, said the Board of Bishops stands by Ekemam and the Nigerian citizens to “show our support, love and concur for the unholy acts that they have had to endure.”
“We call upon our president and nation to use its influence and to employ whatever means necessary to assist us and our cause of assuring safety, freedom and consolation to bring about a better way of life for the people of Nigeria,” McCoy said.
“When tyrants of any nation or country, be it Syria, Nigeria or any other area in the world, inflict death, mutilation or injury to its people, those of us who have respect and interest in human rights are mandated by God to stand up and come forth to denounce such acts of violence and injustice with our strongest voices.”
Bishop Darryl Starnes Sr., president of the Board of Bishops, said the board wanted to take a strong stance against the violence in Nigeria.
“The Board of Bishops is appalled by developments in Nigeria that have adversely affected not only members of the AME Zion Church, but Christians throughout the country,” he said.
Ekemam has been traveling throughout the United States for about two weeks.
“We thought it could be handled diplomatically there. Only recently has it been getting out of hand, and I thought it necessary to bring it to the attention of the church,” he said. “My hope is that by the voice of the church being heard, the voice of the government of the United States might also be heard and that might help to raise consciousness among whoever are supporting the Boko people against the Nigerian people.”
Ekemam said at first the attacks seemed to be small, isolated incidents, but they continue to grow.
“Christians are living in fear because this group is determined to exterminate,” he said. “They say they want to destroy Christians even if it means destroying the whole country.
“They’re indiscriminate, and they’re vicious.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.