AFRICA/NIGERIA - Christian and Muslim religious leaders condemn the massacre in the church of Owo; uncertainty about perpetrators

Monday, 6 June 2022 massacres   persecutions   bishops  

Abuja (Agenzia Fides) - There is still no information on who perpetrated the massacre in the church of St Francis of Owo, in the state of Ondo (south-west of Nigeria), which took place yesterday, Sunday, June 5. This was reported by local Church sources contacted by Agenzia Fides, according to which "it is not yet known whether those who committed this barbaric act are members of Boko Haram, groups of Fulani herdsmen or bandits. What we do know is that before shooting the faithful with firearms inside and outside the church building, there was an explosion near the church". Our sources state that "the number of victims, including deaths and injuries, is still difficult to establish". Local health centres have launched appeals for blood donation. According to the Islamic association Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC, "the attack on the church of St. Francis is indubitable evidence of the existence of Boko Haram in the South West after their penetration into Niger and Kogi States", because "going by Boko Haram modus operandi, we warn that mosques and more churches may be the next targets because this was how they started in the North. We, therefore, ask for protection for all churches and mosques in the region", reads a statement from the Islamic Association that works for the peaceful coexistence between the different confessions in Nigeria. MURIC "strongly condemn this act of unprovoked aggression. It is inhuman, heinous, horrific and horrendous" and call for immediate arrest and prosecution of the attackers".
In a statement released on Sunday, June 5, His Exc. Mgr. Lucius Ugorji Elected Archbishop of Owerri and President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) said he "received the news of the bloody attack unleashed on innocent worshippers at … with great shock and sadness". "Nowhere seems to be safe again in our country; not even the sacred precincts of a Church. We condemn in the strongest terms the spilling of innocent blood in the House of God", says Bishop Ugorji. "The criminals responsible for such a sacrilegious and barbaric act demonstrate their lack of the sense of the sacred and the fear of the God", continues the President of the CBCN, who reminds the Nigerian authorities of their duty to defend the population: "We call on the government to hunt them down and bring them to justice. If the government fails to act decisively on such a grave matter, it would be encouraging the descent of anarchy on our nation". (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 6/6/2022)