“We live in fear” – 2 priests and 15 parishioners killed in attack on church
“Living in fear. The Fulani are still around us here in Mbalom. They refuse to go. They still go grazing around us. No weapons to defend ourselves.” These words were written on Facebook in January by Father Joseph Gor, parish preist of St. Ignatius church in Ayar-Mbalom, a community in the Gwer East local government area of Benue State.
Four months later, on 24 April Fr Gor, another Catholic priest Father Felix Tyolaha and 15 parishioners were killed during a funeral Mass by gunmen. Reports say that about 30 Fulani militants waited for the faithful to gather at the church before attacking. They also burned down about 50 homes in the area.
The incessant attacks on Christians in northern parts of Nigeria by Fulani herdsmen have been strongly condemned by Nigerians, who are demanding justice and security from their government.
When Nigeria’s Catholic bishops met with Pope Francis on 26 April for their periodic “ad Limina” visit, Bishop William Avenya said on behalf of the other bishops present:
“The government apparatus is completely, as it seems to us, helpless, dysfunctional or deliberately helpless and deliberately dysfunctional.
The world is not hearing us. It started like this in Rwanda; the world did not hear. It started like this many years back in Germany. The world was deaf. This is what is happening to us, and the world needs to know that we are in trouble!”
The Holy Father has repeatedly appealed for an end to violence in Nigeria, which has both large Catholic and Muslim populations. Pope Francis repeated his frequent prayers and plea for peace in Nigeria on 29 April 29, 2018.
“Last week the Christian community of Nigeria was stricken again with the killing of a group of faithful, among whom were two priests,” Pope Francis said. “We entrust these brothers to the God of mercy, that he may help those very tried communities to rediscover concord and peace.”