1. St Francis Xavier Church in Ondo celebrates Mass again for the first time since Pentecost massacre

Ten months after the horrible Pentecost attack on a church in Owo, Ondo State, the church has reopened for Mass on Easter Sunday. St Francis Xavier Church in Owo, Ondo State was attacked by gunmen on 5 June 2022, and over 40 people were killed, and dozens more injured. Bishop of Ondo, Most Revd Jude Arogundade made the announcement during the diocesan Chrism Mass. “Since the unfortunate incident that befell our members at the ST Francis Cathedral in Owo on June 5, 2022, the church has been closed down for security reasons and as a mark of respect for our fallen brothers and sisters.” https://dailypost.ng/2023/04/08/owo-massacre-st-francis-xavier-catholicchurch-to-reopen-easter-sunday/


2. Holy Week sees more attacks. Benue is once again at the forefront


During Holy Week, at least 94 people have been killed in a series of attacks across Nigeria, which attacks have been blamed on Muslim insurgents in the country’s Middle Belt region. On Palm Sunday, 2 April armed gunmen attacked a Pentecostal church in Akenawe-Tswarev, Logo County, Benue State, killing a boy and kidnapping the pastor and other congregants. A few days later, on 5 April, gunmen killed at least 50 people in Umogidi, Utokpo Local Government Area, western Benue. Further than that, on Good Friday evening, gunmen stormed a primary school building in Ngban that was operating as a IDP shelter for about 100 families. They stormed the school and killed dozens of occupants. The Good Friday attack left 43 people dead, and more than 40 injured, according to Fr Remigius Ihyula, head of Justice and Peace in Benue State. “The premise is well known and used as a haven for people from neighbouring settlements such as Udei, who from time to time come to the school to sleep/stay due to fear and insecurity in their villages. Beside the school is the house of Zaki Bernard Shawa, who also lost two children in the attack while is front of the school is the Makurdi-Lafia highway with a checkpoint.”

Coincidentally, right before the attack on Friday, the states outgoing governor, Samuel Ortom, had warned residents to stay alert amidst heightened attacks in the state, and also lambasted the police for what he called slow response times to aid requests. While visiting survivors of the Good Friday attacks in Ngban, Ortom said at least 134 people have been killed in attacks across Benue State in the five days preceding. This includes an attack in Apa which left 47 dead, although this attack is not known to be religion based.

A Justice and Peace worker says she arrived the next morning, 8 April, to care for the remaining survivors and spoke to police about a lack of control in their efforts. “Some of the survivors told me that police had fought the attackers and possibly killed some of them, but the marauding band retrieved their dead on their way out of the school compound, and the police told me the same.” Fr Ihyula added, “I doubt that the survivors of the attack on the primary school could go to church on Easter Sunday, as they need medicine and trauma counselling.” https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/254060/holy-week-attacks-on- christian-communities-in-nigeria-leave-nearly-100-dead https://www.churchinneed.org/a-dark-holy-weekin-nigeria-as-fulani-herdsmen-slaughter-dozens-of-idps/



3. InterSociety releases new report on killings


A recently released report has placed the number of Christians killed in Nigeria over the past 14 years at over 52 250. In a report released 10 April, the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) says of that number, at lease 30 000 have been killed since 2015, the year the outgoing president Muhhamadu Buhari came to power. There have also been at least 34 000 Muslims killed in the religious violence as well. At least 18 000 Christian Churches and 2 200 Christian schools were also burnet or otherwise destroyed in the same time period. In 2023 alone, at least 1041 Christians have been killed, from January to the release of the report, with another 700 kidnapped. The ongoing violence, which is largely religious based, has led to millions of Christians being turned into displaced people, especially in Northern Nigeria, where there is “serious jihadist threats for being professed Christians… [at least) 14 million have been uprooted and 8 million forced to flee their homes to avoid bein g hacked to death. (About) 5 million have been displaced and forced into Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps within Nigeria and refugee camps at regional and sub-regional borders,” the report says. According to Andrew Boyd, spokesman for Release International, “It is absolutely appalling that so many Christians are being targeted for their faith and killed in Nigeria, while the Nigerian government seems to stand by and let it happen. It is no less appalling that the international community appears content to stay on the sidelines and watch. Release International has been reporting year in and year out of the targeting of Christians in Nigeria by Islamist militants. Not only do Nigeria’s Christians face slaughter at the hands of Boko Haram and Islamic St ate, they are being killed daily by well-armed Fulani extremists. (There could be) a mass exodus of Christians from Africa’s most populous country unless the incoming Nigerian president takes urgent steps to protect Christians from the violence of these jihadists. So may have lost members of their families and their homes.” Maryamu Joseph was kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2013, until her escape in 2022. She was taken from her village with 21 others and spent years being held hostage in Sambisa Forest. “Nine years of living in bondage! Nine years of torture! Nine years of agony! We suffered so much at the hands of these heartless, ruthless people. For nine years, we saw the shedding of the innocent blood of my fellow Christians, killed by people who do not value life. They murdered without remorse, like it’s a normal thing to do. These nine wasted years in the Sambisa Forest cannot be forgotten in a blink of an eye. Words cannot do justice to what I’ve gone through.” https://catholicreview.org/over-50000-massacred-in-nigeria-for-being-christianin-the-last-14-years-report-says/

Since the attack on St Francis last year at Pentecost, there has been fear in Christian churches in Nigeria about religious holidays with congregants wondering if they are the next easy target for terrorists. This week that fear proved true, with so many attacks on different churches and safe havens. This concentration of attacks on Christians during the holiest week of the year gives weight to the assertion that these attacks are religious attacks, not so much about pastoral land and agricultural access. The victims, both Christians and moderate Muslims, are targeted because they do not subscribe to the radical viewpoint of jihad as understood by them, thus making them targets. The government remaining silent and not making these attacks a priority area will only embolden the insurgents, and make the situation even more dire than it is currently.

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