(LifeSiteNews) — A Nigerian Benedictine kidnapped by Islamic militants recently recounted the harrowing martyrdom his fellow monk endured at the hands of their captors. Having survived the tortures of their captivity, and inspired by the heroic death of his confrere, Brother Godwin Eze, who spent his final hours praying for his captors and encouraging his brothers, the Benedictine said he is prepared now to suffer any kind of martyrdom for the love of Christ.
Brother Peter Olarewaju was taken captive along with Brother Godwin Eze and Brother Anthony Eze by Islamic Fulani militants on Oct. 17. The three monks were from the Benedictine monastery in Eruku in the Ilorin Diocese.
Br. Peter gave ACI Africa a detailed account of the monks’ capture and Br. Godwin’s martyrdom. Close to 1 a.m. on Oct. 17 as the brothers were asleep, Fulani militants broke into the Benedictine monastery with AK-47 guns, machetes, and other weapons.
ACI Africa reported that “Later, the monks would discover that one of the men was a farmer who had been kidnapped from elsewhere and forced to lead the suspected Fulani men to the monastery. The man’s family would later successfully negotiate for his release ahead of the monks.”
“I heard strange voices,” Br. Peter recounted. “At first I thought it was my brothers waking up because we normally wake up very early to pray. But listening keenly, I couldn’t recognize the voices. Something told me it was Boko Haram and so I made an attempt to run out of the room.”
I quickly abandoned the idea to run as I felt the men’s presence in our room. Instead, I slid under the bed and hid there for a while. I heard them rough up my roommate Anthony, who shouted ‘Jesus!’
After ransacking the room and finding Br. Peter, they took him outside with several other monks, whose hands they tied. As the monks knelt, the Fulani militants demanded their cell phones. When Br. Godwin indicated the phones were with their novice master Oga, Br. Peter volunteered to give his captors his own.
“I was scared for our novice master and so I quickly offered to give them my phone,” he said. He was then led at gunpoint back inside and handed over his phone and the novice master’s phone number, in this preventing his novice master from also being captured.
After the gunmen left behind a monk who knew Hausa, one of the Nigerian native languages—so as not to allow the captives to understand their conversations in Hausa—they then set off with three monks, Brs. Peter, Godwin, and Anthony, on what turned into a five-day journey filled with tortures, near death by starvation, miles through rugged mountain wilderness walking barefoot, and the murder of Br. Godwin.
Br. Peter described the long journey into the wild:
They strategically put us in a straight line with one of their men separating us. Our hands were tied behind our backs for the entire five days until we were released on Oct. 21
The kidnappers were very well coordinated. They would send two ordinarily dressed men out in the day to survey the landscape and find the routes we would use during the night. When night fell, they would set us in motion, making us walk very long hours.
We were not allowed to complain as they would hit us with machetes, gun barrels, and large pieces of wood. At daybreak, they pushed us in the bushes [and] made us sit out in the open while they surrounded us. Sometimes, we were rained on while they made a fire for themselves away from us.
Their Muslim captors demanded 150 million naira (about $190,000) from the monastery as ransom for the three monks. They called the monastery within hours of the kidnapping, but when the sum turned out to be too great for the monastery and negotiations broke down, the gunmen turned on their captives and beat them mercilessly in what Br. Peter said appeared to be kind of demonic fury.
“They took turns to hit us,” Br. Peter recounted. “There is no place on our bodies they didn’t hit us. We tried our best to hide our eyes from the beating. We cried until our voices became hoarse. I lack words to describe those men. To me, they have lost every sense of humanity. Something else is living in them.”
Along the way, the Fulani gunmen would steal food from nearby farms, and while making the monks carry the food, would not allow them anything to eat.
Relating an episode of special torture, Br. Peter said that one evening in the rain, the monks were made to lie down under a tree. “Unknown to us, we were made to lie in an ants’ nest,” he said. “The insects bit us and since our bodies were numb, we only noticed the swelling in the morning.”
Eventually, exhausted from the beatings, tortures, lack of food and the long walking, the monks could no longer move. “I think our kidnappers thought that we were going to die before they could collect the ransom,” Br. Peter said.
One of them brought out six pieces of biscuits and untied Godwin to feed us. The men who kidnapped us gave us two biscuits while keeping our hands tied. They momentarily loosened Brother Godwin’s hand to allow him to feed us. I remember him holding up the biscuits for each of us to take a bite in turns. I will never forget the love and reassurance in his eyes when he fed us.
On the night of October 18 at night, as Br. Godwin walked ahead of the other two, he met his death at the hands of his Muslim captors.
“I heard Godwin cry out in a very loud voice,” Br. Peter said. “One of the men flashed a torch light and I could see my brother standing in a pool of his blood. A big piece of wood had torn through his ankle, baring his flesh. As he struggled to remove the piece of wood from his leg with his hands tied behind his back, he stumbled and fell into a large pit.”
Br. Godwin, injured from the wood and his fall into the pit, could no longer walk, which infuriated the gunmen further.
“That night, the beating was worse than the previous occasions,” Br. Peter described. “The men had kept threatening us that they were going to kill us. That night, we knew they were going to make good their threats. I heard one of the men cock their guns. I said a prayer: ‘Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit.’ A shot was fired. It was Godwin that they shot.”
Br. Peter said that was the worst day of his life. “Anthony and I were so mad. We screamed at the men, begging them to kill us. We couldn’t take the torture anymore.”
Since the men were near the edge of a fast-flowing river, the Fulani demanded that Brs. Peter and Anthony throw Br. Godwin’s body into the river. Br. Peter recounted,
We tried our best to refuse amid the beating they gave us. After a while, we signaled each other, held the body of our brother Godwin by the arm and leg, and tried to jump into the river with the body. Anthony jumped in first but was quickly pulled out. After that, he received a thorough beating for it.
I couldn’t sleep on the day that my brother Godwin was killed. The men promised to kill me on Thursday and to kill Anthony on Friday unless they received money from our families who they had roped into their evil negotiations.
We stuck to our prayers. In fact, it was Bother Godwin’s idea that we continue with our mental prayers. We would signal each other to pray silently since the men didn’t want to hear the mention of the name ‘Jesus.’
The Fulani gunmen kept up communications with the monastery, which is located in Kwara state. By October 21, they had forced the monks to journey to the border of the neighboring Kogi state, many miles from the monastery. As they neared the Kwara-Kogi border, the Fulani reached an agreement with the Benedictine monastery and released Brs. Peter and Anthony.
Br. Peter described the desperate condition in which the two of them were finally rescued. “We were in very bad shape when the kidnappers finally set us free. One more day with them and we would surely have died,” he said. “I could look at brother Anthony and see that he was on the verge of death.”
ACI Africa reported that, “frail and with deep wounds on his body from being flogged daily while he was held captive, Olarewaju had slumped into the arms of his brother monks who carried him from the monastery to the hospital. There, he was given 30 injections before he came around and was allowed a few more days to recuperate in a wheelchair.”
After searching in vain for Br. Godwin’s body along the river, the Benedictines offered his funeral requiem on Nov. 22 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Ilorin.
Having witnessed the strong faith and heroic death of Br. Godwin, Br. Peter said he is prepared now to shed hid blood for Christ after his confrere’s example.
Brother Godwin was my senior in the monastery. He guided me on many occasions. I sometimes sat next to him in the oratory and he would help me open the prayer book. Some days, as I fumbled with the prayer book, he would sense my struggles and give me his already opened book. He would then take mine and quickly open the page and join the rest of us in the praying or singing. He was that loving and caring. I have no doubt that brother Godwin is in heaven.
I joined the monastery hoping to make it to heaven. After my kidnapping and the horrors I encountered, it has become clear to me that I want something more. I am prepared to die a martyr in this dangerous country. I am ready anytime to die for Jesus. I feel this very strongly.
LifeSiteNews’ extensive coverage on the persecution of Christians in Nigeria can be found here.