Date Created: 2018-06-25 17:48:42

                                        UNACCEPTABLE MARTYRDOM OF CATHOLICS IN NIGERIA

                                                                          Peter Adeyemi

Martyrdom from a religious perspective is glorious and virtuous, it involves laying down of one’s life for one’s conviction in a religious faith or ideology. Martyrdom is not  new in the Catholic world, the faith has survived brutal persecutions in the past two thousand years and it is still undergoing attacks in different parts of the world today. 

The persecution of Christians in the northern part of the country generally has sadly heightened unwarranted attacks and killings of Catholics in the same region.  From the point of view of faith, the killing of Catholics in the northern part of the country is a clear case of martyrdom. Catholic  Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan affirmed this during the funeral of 35 Catholics who were murdered in the  Mandalla bomb blast that occurred in St. Theresa Catholic Church, Suleja, Niger State on December 25, 2011. According to Cardinal Onaiyekan the victims “were killed in an atmosphere of threats and rumour of violence intended to discourage them from going to Church. Like the Holy innocents of Bethlehem, they deserve to be listed among martyrs who died for the sake and in the name Jesus. Therefore, we have not come to bury the dead but to celebrate the victorious entry of martyrs into paradise.”

The Church in Nigeria is yet to initiate the process for the canonization of those martyrs of Boko Haram madness when we recorded another set of martyrs seven years after the Mandalla bombing. On Tuesday 24th April, 2018 at St. Ignatius Catholic Church, Ukpor-Mbalom, Gwer-East Local Government Area of Benue State two Catholic priests namely, Rev. Fr. Joseph Gor and Fr. Felix Tyolaha and seventeen other Catholic faithful were killed in cold blood by suspected Fulani herdsmen.

In the two cases our security agents were caught unawares, unprepared and unresponsive, what a sad commentary!  Where were the ever ready Mobile Police Units, the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS), and the popular IGP Squad? Each time the protected killers of Nigerians struck.   If the regular policemen were incapable of confronting the murderers, what was the Nigerian Army the pride of Africa, known to possess vigour and vitality doing when the riff raffs called herdsmen killed Nigerians under their watch? Our Airforce men are probably taking a nap, while the officers and men of the Nigerian Navy have gone on sabbatical leave.  The State Security Department men have suddenly lost their capacity to sniff out criminals and embark on pre-emptive strategies that can checkmate the “sacred terrorists” in our nation. 

Poetic spiritual language of martyrdom is not adequate to describe the plight of Catholics and other Christians in the northern Nigeria of our time. Mass murder, genocide and religious massacre of Christians are the sad expressions to qualify what is happening now. Our country Nigeria has turned to a killing field and horrible jungle where animals with claws and teeth kill and devour other less armed animals. Funny enough, a close monitoring of National Geographic Wild Channel, reveals that animals without power to reason like us human beings do occasionally come to the rescue of other animals and thwart attack on them. But in Nigeria, the Government with the constitutional power and required resources to protect harmless Nigerians has not shown any serious effort in that regard, the facts are there for the whole world to judge! Why??? Religious bias? Incompetence? Insensitivity? Political ambition? Desperation to cling to power? All of the above are suspect factors.

  When the Mandalla attack occurred in 2011, the Vatican promptly denounced the attack as “a sign of cruelty and absurd, blind hatred” that shows lack of respect for human live. The murder of 19 Catholics in Benue last week was barbaric, cowardly, demonic and an unacceptable murder of innocent Nigerians. The Federal Government and the security agencies should wake up to their responsibilities of safeguarding lives and properties of Nigerians they are being paid to protect.

As a community of faith, we keep the families of the victims of the latest genocide in Benue in our prayers, while we pray for the souls of the murdered Catholic faithful. They are certainly future martyrs of the Church in Nigeria, they will eventual get a place in the annals of Catholic hagiography.

    Rev. Fr. Peter Oluseyi Adeyemi, is the Parish Priest of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Oroki Housing Estate, Oke-Fia, Osogbo, Osun State, Nigeria.               

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