Do you know that the N!gerian government imposed a land, sea, and air blockade in B!afran territories during the war in order to prevent food, meditation, and other supplies from reaching the Biafran enclave? But someone broke the blockade rule. His name is Fr. Dermot Doran, CSSp, a Holy Ghost Irish priest. He was 34 years old when he did that.

“He was the first to break the N!gerian blockade on B!afra and flew in with medical supplies, subsequently organizing a world wide media campaign strongly supported by independent newspapers,” says Culleton. His action motivated many charity organizations to find their way to Biafra to feed the hungry and attend to the sick.

Over 60,000 tons of aid, which was at the time the largest mobilization of aid by civilians in history, was initiated by Doran. He was the anchor person.

According to a recent publication by Clay Risen of the New York Times, “500,000 and two million noncombatants died because of the blockade — but an estimated one million more survived because of the airlift.”

Writing further, Rising said: “Sneaking in and out of B!afra, Doran located the first planes and hired the first pilots. He went to New York City to arrange the first-aid shipments. He mapped out the logistics of moving thousands of tons of supplies from Europe and North America to airfields in Gabon and Sao Tome, an island south of N!geria that was then under Portuguese rule.”

“Doran accompanied many of the flights from there into B!afra, coordinated supply distribution, caught up with locals and other priests, then left to tell the world what he had learned.” The airlifts took the lives of over 25 crew members, Risen said.

Risen also recalled that Doran “had a way with the news media, befriending, among others, Harry Reasoner of CBS and the BBC correspondent Frederick Forsyth, whose experience in B!afra helped inspire his conversion to writing political thrillers.”

“Father Doran testified before the United States Senate, leaving a lasting impression on Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who became a leading advocate for B!afra in Congress.”

“B!afra became an international rallying cry. Thousands took part in protest marches in London and Paris.”

“More aid organizations arrived. Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish groups, including Catholic Relief Services, gathered under an umbrella effort called Joint Church Aid, which collected supplies for transit through the airlift. Father Doran was its relief organizer. The pilots nicknamed it Jesus Christ Airlines.

It’s a fantastic example of ecumenism,” Father Doran told United Press International in 1969. “We mightn’t be agreed on theology — but we are agreed on bread.”

The flouting of the blockade order was the major reason why Fr. Dermot Doran and other missionaries were jailed and later expelled after the war in 1970.

Giving the reason for his action so many years after the expulsion, Fr. Dermot Doran said, “All I wanted was to save the children. They were the biggest victims of the war.”

Doran arrived in N!geria in 1961, shortly after his priestly ordination, when he was only 27 years old. He died recently, on May 19, 2023, at the age of 88. Unfortunately, his death was not widely reported. Kindly remember him in your prayers, especially today. May he and all the victims of the B!afran gen0cide rest in peace.

© Fada Angelo Chidi Unegbu, 2024