Recently, via social media, I’ve become friends with a Catholic priest in Nigeria. Because of the brutal persecution to which Christians in his country are routinely subjected by Muslims, I will not disclose his name. Just a couple of days ago, he posted on his Facebook page a link to a story regarding a fellow Nigerian priest, a man of God who was doing some shopping at the local market for the poor when Muslim gunmen shot him dead.
Knowing that I’ve made it a mission of sorts to draw what attention I can to the plight of persecuted Christians throughout the world, particularly throughout the Middle East and Africa, my new friend private messaged me, thanking me for my “love.” He also underscored the unadulterated evil of Islamic-on-Christian oppression in his country, adding: “The Muslims want our lives!”
On August 18, Father Michael Akawu, “the first indigenous priest of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, was gunned down in cold blood while shopping at a “supermarket” in Gwagwalada, a suburb of Akawu.
Father Michael was ordained as recently as February of last year.
But just hours later, according to Samson Ayokunle, president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), “hoodlums suspected to be Fulani terrorists” besieged a Baptist church. They murdered Reverend Hosea Akuchi and abducted his wife. Ayokunle verifies that the latter’s “whereabouts remain unknown” and her captors are demanding a ransom for her safe return.
Earlier in the winter, two Catholic priests, Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha, along with 15 of their parishioners were murdered by Islamic herdsmen who besieged their community and raided their church.
In March, Nigerian Christians protested against the persecution that they suffer, persecution that is not only systemic, but which they insist has at least the implicit backing of the Islamic government. Bishop Olukayode Odetoyinbo called for the resignation of President Muhammadu Buhari on the grounds that the latter has taken no action to stop the slaughter of Christians.
“We asked the president to resign because he’s the father of the nation [and] when the father cannot protect home, what’s the responsibility of a father then?” The bishop asserted that the president has a “duty…to protect Nigerians” who “entrust” their “lives” to him. “But if a father cannot do that,” cannot honor that trust and protect those under his jurisdiction, he must resign.
Bishop Odetoyinbo assures us that he and his fellow Catholics will “continue praying” with the knowledge that “with the help of God and ourselves, there will be peace in Nigeria.” Catholics and other Nigerian Christians will continue calling on “the president and everyone to protect lives, respect lives and ward away from any factor or any reasons that can take another person’s life.”
Another Catholic bishop, Oyeleke Abegunrin, remarked that “no word of sympathy or condolence has been addressed to the Catholic community in Nigeria” has been extended by the Nigerian president for the losses that Catholics have suffered. “If the president cannot keep our country safe by taking very drastic and urgent steps to reverse this ugly tragedy that threatens the foundation of our collective existence and unity as a nation, it is time for him to choose the path of honour and consider stepping aside to save the nation from total collapse.”
Bulus Lakar, a representative of another Catholic diocese, addressed one of the nation-wide protests with powerful words. He referenced “the wave of political assassinations, killings for ritual purposes, [and the] frequent gruesome and mass murders of harmless, innocent and defenceless citizens [.]” “Very often,” Lakar noted, [it is] “our young people, the very symbols of life and vigour, [who] are the victims and agents of this wastage of human life.”
He concluded: “In recognition of our divine mandate, we must all be reminded of the sacredness and inviolability of human life.”
Lakar called on Muslims to join Christians in “say[ing] no to these senseless killings.”
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that Christian demonstrators carried placards with such poignant phrases as: “No weapon fashioned against Christians shall prosper,” “Say no to terrorism in places of worship,” “Christians’ lives matter,” “Live and let Live,” “human lives are sacred,” “Change is not about killing of innocent Nigerians,” and “Peaceful and prayerful march for life: Stop the Killings.”
Bishop John Ayah assured the media that Catholics had no plans on assuming arms against their persecutors. “We do not have arms,” he said. Rather, “our arms are our prayers and our rosaries.” It is for this reason that he and his fellow Catholics will continue imploring “governments to wake up to their responsibilities of providing adequate security to the citizens.”
Nigerian Christians living in the middle and northern regions—i.e. the Islamic-dominated regions—of their country are systematically targeted by Muslim predators because of their faith. Meanwhile, the Islamic government turns a blind eye to the abuses.
But don’t expect to hear much about this in the Western media.