ONDO, Nigeria (LifeSiteNews) — A Catholic church in Nigeria has reopened for public worship, 10 months after at least 50 people were killed during Mass when terrorists opened fire upon the congregation.
On Easter Sunday, April 9, St. Francis Xavier church in the Owo area of the Nigerian Diocese of Ondo welcomed worshippers back into the pews for the first time since Pentecost Sunday 2022. Led by Ondo’s Bishop Jude Arogundade, Catholics filled the pews of the restored church, which had been closed since last year’s attack.
On June 5, 2022 over 50 people were shot dead and more than 60 injured when armed terrorists attacked the church with guns and explosives. Footage following the attack showed the floor of the church smeared with blood, with pews overturned and furnishings smashed.
READ: Fifty dead in terrorist attack on Nigerian Catholic church
Despite more than 10 months having elapsed since the attack, no arrests have yet been made in conjunction with the attack, nor have any particular groups or individuals officially been highlighted as likely being responsible. However, the record of Muslim violence against Christians in Nigeria is well recorded.
Government has ‘failed in the area of protecting the lives and property’
Among the congregation present on April 9 were members of the Catholic community of Owo who had survived the terrorist attack last year, including two who bore injuries from the attack. Mrs. Margaret Attah has been left without her legs and also without one of her eyes following the attack, but was present at the Mass.
The Catholic Church in Owo Nigeria attacked by terrorists last year reopened for worship service TEN MONTHS after the massacre. In attendance were some of the surviving victims on wheel-chairs. pic.twitter.com/sXPFTi7Z8K
— gospelfilmsng (@gospelfilmsng) April 9, 2023
Pointing to the Easter feast in his homily, Arogundade related the attack to the Holy Week ceremonies: “But how do we explain this in relation to the death of our beloved Jesus Christ? We can explain by our faith also by the joy we bring to our brothers and sisters.”
But he further highlighted the legacy of the attack by lamenting the state of the country. “We have to call ourselves back to the greater understanding of what is happening in our society today,” he said. “I have never seen a nation so comfortable watching the killings of its citizens on a daily basis in hundreds and nothing has been done for the past 15 years.”
He took aim at the civil authorities for not ensuring greater safety for Christians in Nigeria, saying “it doesn’t happen in other places.”
I don’t know why the government has refused to apologize to the citizens they failed. A government which failed or cannot protect its citizens is not worthy to be called a government.
Making a deliberate plea to be broadcast through means of the assembled journalists, who were videoing the Mass, Arogundade stated: “I wish to say this without fear of anyone that the government of this country has failed us and you, pressmen, should record me very well; they have failed in the area of protecting the lives and property of the people.”
Almost on a daily basis we hear people being killed in their tens and hundreds; many people have even forgotten what happened in this church 10 months ago, because many more have happened without the world paying attention.
The government must wake up and show strength and courage and make sure those who carried out the evil attack that took place in this church and the evil going around our country are brought to book and punished accordingly.
Persecution increasing during Holy Week
Nigeria has been a hotbed for religious persecution of Christians for many years. According to a recent report by the NGO Open Doors, 4,650 Christians were killed in Nigeria in the 2022 reporting year, many of them being murdered by Islamic extremist groups like Boko Haram. The 2023 report figures, dating from October 1, 2021 to September 30, 2022, document 5,014 Christians killed and a further 4,726 abducted.
Open Doors wrote that Nigeria is “manifestly failing to protect Nigerian Christians’ fundamental rights,” thereby violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
With this in mind, Bishop Arogundade and Bishop Wilfred Chikpa Anagbe have appealed to the European Parliament and the U.S. for assistance. Arogundade has also accused U.S. Democrats of deliberately turning a blind eye to Christian persecution in his homeland.
READ: Democrats in the US ‘look away’ from persecution of Christians in Nigeria, African bishop says
Indeed, just over Holy Week nearly 100 Christians are known to have died at the hands of yet more attacks. Palm Sunday in a Pentecostal church in Benue state saw a young boy killed by men armed with machetes, who then abducted the pastor and two others during the religious ceremony.
Days later in the same Benue state at least 50 people were killed in two attacks by gunmen on Spy Wednesday. A further attack on Good Friday night saw over 40 people dead and nearly as many injured when armed men attacked a Catholic aid group.
International Christian aid organization Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has also long highlighted the plight of persecuted Christians in the country, writing that Nigeria is home to more persecution “than anywhere else in the world.”