In the funeral of 40 of the victims of the terrorist attack against a Catholic Church in Owo, in southwestern Nigeria, Bishop Emmanuel Badejo had very harsh words against the authorities of his country, while urging the faithful to “refuse to be crushed by tragedy.”
Monsignor Badejo directly accused the federal government of Nigeria for having shown “no desire to protect the Christian religion”.
“We have seen tragedies in Nigeria and we have seen brutal killings, but Few can truly compare to the brutality and gruesomeness of the event on that Pentecost Sunday.” Bishop Emmanuel Badejo said during the funeral mass, in front of dozens of simple wooden coffins decorated with flowers.
The terrorist attack against the Catholic temple took place on Sunday June 5, when armed men – suspected Islamic extremists – opened fire on worshipers gathered to participate in the Pentecost Mass on the Church of San Francisco Javier in Owo, Ondo state, southwestern Nigeria. Among the dead were many children and the elderly. More than 60 people were injured during the attack. A priest, who witnessed the massacre, said that, in addition to the shots, he heard three or four explosions, and that the entire attack lasted between 20 and 25 minutes.
“In these coffins a part of nigeria also lies dead -said Bishop Badejo, of the diocese of Oyo, near Owo, site of the attack-. Because alongside these departed lie the joys, hopes and aspirations of their families and loved ones, of the Church of God, of the various communities from which they come and, of course, of Nigeria. Even those who are maimed and wounded, wherever they are, represent Nigeria with all its wounds, bruised, brutalized and raped. So I ask: How much longer will this continue?
The Owo Mydas Event Centerwhere the funeral took place, was packed with faithful and priests, gathered to bid farewell to the 40 dead in the attack -although the death toll amounts to 50-, whose ages range from between 2 and 85 years.
The state of Ondo is known as the “sunshine state”, and this prompted Badejo to comment bitterly that “If the sun shone on Ondo that day, surely it did not penetrate the sordid darkness of the hearts of assassins who visited San Francisco with firearms that Sunday.”
The attack, the bishop said, drew worldwide attention to the Owo Catholic Church, to the region and to the Nigerian state, but “Unfortunately for very wrong reasons.” “The whole world has condemned the crime perpetrated against humanity and against God in this state,” he added.
Despite this, he urged the faithful to hope: “What a pity and at the same time what luck!”, he said, referring to the fact that the victims died in a church, under the cross. “Because as the Christian religion teaches us to always put all our problems and sorrows at the foot of the cross, we know that they, our dead, are safe in the arms of Jesus – he added- So, dear grieving families, friends, parish, all gathered here, I ask you to refuse to be crushed by the tragedy before us because of your faith in Christ. Today, as difficult as it is, let us choose more to thank God for having given our deceased brothers life, faith and the privilege of belonging to Him and to return to Him even in this incomprehensible way.”
Nigeria holds the record for Christians killed for their faith: in 2021, there were at least 4,650 victims, and almost 900 in the first three months of 2022.
“The ritual murders, kidnappings, homicides, lynchings and armed robberies continue to add to the bloody count of innocent deaths and suffering in Nigeria every day”, lamented the Bishop.
The authorities point to a faction of Boko Haram, the ISWAP, as a possible perpetrator of the Pentecost attack. However, the state of Ondo is far from the usual area of operations of this terrorist group, which is concentrated rather in the north of the country.
The attacked diocese is being assisted by parishes from other regions, by local authorities, by organizations such as the Red Cross, and by groups of other confessions, Muslims for example.
Father Andrew Adeniyi Abayomihe assured that, Despite the attack, the faith of the members of the parishioners remains firm: “From my encounter with the parishioners, I have not seen a loss of faith, but a strengthening.”
The terrible attack on the St. Francis Xavier Church in Nigeria, where 40 defenseless men, women and children were murdered in cold blood, is sadly no exception. The Christian religion is today the most persecuted in the world, especially in Asian and African countries, due to the restrictions to which it is subjected, but also due to the persecution and direct attacks and the number of fatalities.
The Pentecost attack amplifies Cardinal Müller’s claim when last February, in Burkina Faso, there was another attack against Christians: “In Africa, this week, radical Muslims burned down a seminary. They told the seminarians, all teenagers, that if they come back they will kill them. Has the western media picked up that news? Why not? Because they are Africans and what happens to Africans does not matter? Or because they are Catholics and what happens to Catholics doesn’t matter? Or maybe because they are Catholic and African, total silence.”
With information from UCANews/InfoCatólica
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