Nigeria church massacre: At funeral, bishop urges Christians to ‘refuse to be crushed by tragedy’

“The people of God – tragedy and grief, big or small, have the ability to defeat and crush us only if we succumb to them,” Badejo preached.

“So, dear bereaved families, friends, the parish of [St. Francis], all gathered here, I appeal to you not to let yourselves be crushed by the tragedy that we have before us because of your faith in Christ. Today, as difficult as it is, let us choose more to thank God for giving our deceased brothers the life, the faith and the privilege to belong to him and to come back to himself in this incomprehensible way.

Despite his words of hope, Badejo has strongly criticized the Nigerian government, especially President Muhammadu Buhari, for its perceived inaction on the killings of Christians in his country. Badejo mused that it seems to many people that nomadic herders and insurgent groups are more powerful than the federal government at the moment.

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“We are not walking corpses just waiting to be killed. … So we are compelled to ask: are you still our leaders? Are we at war? Have you abdicated leadership? How many more must die? he said, addressing the federal authorities. At the same time, he thanked the Governor of Ondo State, present at the funeral, and other local officials “for doing everything in their power since (the attack) to bring relief to the people affected and to the Church”.

More Christians are being killed for their faith in Nigeria than in any other country in the world – at least 4,650 in 2021 and almost 900 in the first three months of 2022 alone. Some humanitarian organizations and experts are even gathering evidence that the killing of Christians in Nigeria constitutes genocide.

“Ritual killings, kidnappings, murders, lynchings, abductions, armed robberies are further increasing day by day the bloody toll of innocent death and suffering in Nigeria,” Badejo lamented.

There is a right to self-defense in the Catholic Church, he noted, saying life “must be defended in the face of unprovoked aggression and imminent danger.”

Badejo addressed the perpetrators of the attack, calling on them to repent and give their lives to Jesus Christ.

“The God of life calls you to repentance. The Church of Christ invites you to change your mind, lay down your arms, repent and embrace peace,” Badejo said addressing the attackers.

“Why would you be agents of destruction of (the) life in which you yourself participate? Why be an instrument of bloodshed in this beautiful country given to all? Why would you abuse and destroy the humanity of which you yourselves are a part? You can make us cry and cry but we will never stop inviting you to come and share the love and joy of God who loves you as he loves everyone. Fill your heart with love and cast out hate,” he urged.

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ISWAP, a splinter faction of Boko Haram, has been identified by government officials as the likely culprit in the Pentecost attack, but Ondo State, where the attack took place, is far from the ISWAP’s usual area of ​​operations in the north of the country.

The priest who witnessed the attack said the diocese called on other parishes for help and that the local government as well as non-governmental organizations, such as the Red Cross and other groups, including Muslim groups and imams, “practically came to our aid”. and financially. Father Andrew Adeniyi Abayomihe also said that in his opinion the faith of the parishioners is very much alive and strong despite the attack, saying that “since my meeting with the parishioners, I have not seen a loss of faith, but a reinforcement”.

In an interview with CNA conducted in 2020, Bishop Badejo highlighted the relative harmony between Muslims and Christians in the diocese he leads, located in the south-west.

“My diocese is actually one of the centers that I use as an example of good peaceful coexistence between religions in Nigeria, and has often been noted by the Vatican as well, as an example of what peaceful coexistence should look like” , Badejo told CNA in 2020.

He said at the time that although his diocese has fewer instances of outright violence than some in the north, there are more systemic and subtle means of persecution, such as government appointments and written laws that appear to favor the Islam versus Christianity.

“It is no secret that in Nigeria, especially with the government of (President Muhammadu) Buhari, there are all the written laws which have not favored Christians at all, which have favored, in d ‘other words, Muslims,” ​​Badejo said, noting that Buhari himself is of Fulani ancestry.

Jerry B. Hatch