AFRICA/NIGERIA - Bishop of Nsukka: "Let us forgive our enemies, but the government has to protect us"

Tuesday, 21 June 2016 bishops   armed groups   massacres  

Abuja (Agenzia Fides) - "Never in the history of our community have we witnessed anything similar. And we pray and hope that never again shall we witness any tragedy close to this one in magnitude", said His Exc. Mgr. Godfrey Igwebuike Onah, Bishop of Nsukka, in the State of Enugu, in the south-east of Nigeria, in his homily at the funeral of the victims of massacre in the village of Nimbus. The massacre, attributed to Fulani herdsmen, took place on April 25 (see Fides 02/05/2016), but the funerals of some of the victims were held only 17 June.
"We are grateful to God, that some of us are still alive today to bury and mourn our dead. If our invaders had had their way, there would probably not have been anybody left in Nimbo today to bury the dead. But thanks to God, many were able to escape and some are now here today to pay their last respect to their slain brothers".
The Bishop invites the community to forgiveness: "Although we may find it hard to forgive the violent attack that has brought us so much grief, we know that an unforgiving spirit will never bring us peace. Let us pray to God for the grace to do this and to love our enemies".
Mgr. Onah also urges the faithful "not to be afraid" but adds, "how can we not be afraid when it is already being rumoured (or perhaps it is no longer a rumour) that our assailants are again back to our farms?".
Mgr. Onah then launches an appeal to the government to guarantee security to farmers and said he is against the proposal under discussion in the Federal Parliament which deprives the people of farmlands and means of sustenance in order to provide grazing grounds for Fulani cattle rearers in all the States of Nigeria (see Fides 09/06/2016). According to the Bishop, "man does not live by cow meat alone" but also off the fruits of land, in a clear reference to the age-old tension between cattle rearers and settled farmers that characterize different regions of Africa.
According to Mgr. Onah furthermore "it appears some criminal elements are now using the cattle rearers as a cover for penetrating many villages and perpetrating heinous crimes". The Bishop stressed that this violence must stop otherwise "a heightened sense of insecurity may lead to an escalation of violence and a total breakdown of law and order". (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 21/06/2016)