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Bishop Emmanuel Badejo during the Requiem Mass.Video screenshot

ONDO, Nigeria (LifeSiteNews) – A Nigerian bishop from the diocese next to where a recent massacre of Catholics took place, reminded Christians to defend their lives in the face of aggression and danger, calling upon the government to intervene in the wake of heightened Christian persecution.

Bishop Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo of the Diocese of Oyo made his remarks, later published by the Catholic News Agency (CNA), on June 17, 2022, during the Requiem Mass for the victims of the terror attack on St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church Ondo Parish, which took place on Pentecost Sunday.

“We have seen tragedies in Nigeria and brutal murders, but few can really be compared with the brutality and gruesomeness of the event on Pentecost Sunday,” said Bishop Badejo.

Bishop Badejo serves as president of the Pan African Episcopal Committee for Social Communication (CEPACS), and his diocese of Oyo is next to the Ondo Diocese, where the recent Pentecost massacre took place.

In his homily he lamented that the coffins containing those killed in the attack also held a “a part of Nigeria” which “lies dead, too.”

Because lying down here with these deceased ones are the joys, hopes, and aspirations of their families and the friends of Church of God, various communities from within and outside Nigeria.

“Even those who are maimed and wounded themselves, wherever they are, stand for Nigeria with all her self-inflicted wounds, bruised, brutalized, and violated,” he added. “So I ask: for how long shall this continue?”

READ: The Western world is turning a blind eye to the Islamic attacks against Christians in Nigeria

The attack has increased sectarian tensions in the West African country with Christians under almost constant threat from radical Islamists.

The bishop highlighted this aspect, and criticized the Nigerian government, specifically President Muhammadu Buhari, for the insufficient effort to protect the Christian community in his country. He added that the federal government seems powerless to constrain the malign actions of the nomadic herders and insurgents and called for more action to be taken.

“We are not walking corpses merely waiting to be butchered. So we are compelled to ask: Are you still our leaders? Have you denounced leadership? How many more must die?,” he asked.

Bishop Badejo also recalled the Catechism’s teaching on self-defense, saying that “there exists a right to self-defense in the Catholic Church.”

“Life must be defended in the face of unwarranted aggression and impending risks,’ he reminded, in a move which could be seen to be at odds with the less confrontational approach that the Vatican has pursued for decades with Muslims.

Badejo joined his fellow Nigerian bishops in extending his compassion and prayers for other Christians who were murdered, kidnapped, and for those who are sacrificed in the native, pagan rituals. He urged the mourners to thank God for having blessed those killed with the gifts of “life, the faith and the privilege of belonging to Him and of returning to Him even in this incomprehensible manner.”

Finally, Bishop Badejo addressed the attackers, pleading with them to stop being perpetrators of destruction but rather repent and dedicate their lives to God. “The God of life calls on you to repent. The Church of Christ invites you to a change of heart to cast away the swords and embrace solitude and peace,” he said.

Why be an instrument of bloodshed in this beautiful country given to all? Why would you abuse and destroy humanity of which you are apart? You may make us cry and mourn, but we shall never stop inviting you to come and share in the love and joy of God, who loves everyone.

“Fill your heart with love and cast out hatred,” he urged.

It has recently been observed by Genocide Watch, which tracks the global rise in the persecution of Christians, that Nigeria has the highest rate of Christian genocide. The organization called Nigeria “The World’s Greatest Enemy of Christianity,” with estimates suggesting that 45,644 Christians had been killed since 2009 – the start of the Boko Haram uprising.

The data suggest that such violence is only increasing, with over 6,000 Christians killed between January 2021 through March 2022. Some 4,500 were also abducted in the same 15-month time frame.