Nigeria: Catholic Bishops denounce violence against Christians

“Human beings are being slaughtered regularly by terrorists who are suspected to have targeted the Christians. Security of life and property can no longer be guaranteed in Nigeria,” said Mons. Paulinus Chukwuemeka Ezeokafor, Bishop of Awka, State of Anambra, in southern Nigeria.

The Bishop of Awaka is the latest of Catholic bishops to denounce violence, including against Christians, asking federal and local authorities to guarantee everyone’s safety. At the funeral of the seminarian kidnapped and then killed in the state of Kaduna, in north-western Nigeria, Mons.  Matthew Hassan Kukah, Bishop of Sokoto, addressed harsh words against President Muhammadu Buhari, who had been elected on the promise to restore security in the country.

He said: “No one could have imagined that in winning the Presidency, General Buhari would bring nepotism and clannishness into the military and the ancillary Security Agencies, that his government would be marked by supremacist and divisive policies that would push our country to the brink. This President displayed the greatest degree of insensitivity in managing our Country’s rich diversity.”

Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah decried in his homily on February 11 during Michael Nnadi’s burial, the youngest, 18 years of age of the four seminarians kidnapped at Good Shepherd Major Seminary in Kaduna State, Northwest Nigeria, by armed men on the night of January 8. The seminarian’s body was found on February 1 along with that of another person who had been kidnapped by the bandits.

Bishop Kukah recalls that President Muhammadu Buhari was elected in 2015 on the basis of the promise to restore security in the country but this did not happen and indeed even the citizens of northern Nigeria, where Buhari comes from, contest his policy. “Despite running the most nepotistic and narcissistic government in known history, the north still has the worst indices of poverty, insecurity, stunting, squalor and destitution,” said the Bishop.

“His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto and the Emir of Kano are the two most powerful traditional and moral leaders in Islam today. None of them is happy and they have said so loud and clear. Traditional leaders from the north, who in 2015 believed that General Buhari had come to redeem the north, have now turned against the President”, said Mons. Kukah.

The Bishop also denounced the persecution of Christians in Nigeria by armed groups, primarily Boko Haram. “Are we to believe that simply because Boko Haram kills Muslims too, they wear no religious garb? Are we to deny the evidence before us, of kidnappers separating Muslims from infidels or compelling Christians to convert or die? Mons. Kukah contested not only the insecurity that reigns in Nigeria, but also the policies that have deepened the ethnic and religious divisions between North and South.”

Meanwhile, the priest who was abducted by gunmen has been freed. Fr. Nicholas Oboh was kidnapped in the southwest region of Nigeria and was freed Tuesday evening February 18. Several children were kidnapped at the same time Oboh was abducted Feb. 13. The condition and circumstances of those children are not yet known.

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