A great number of Nigerian Catholics led by the Country’s Episcopal Conference took to the streets yesterday, 1st March 2020 to protest the high level of insecurity in the Country in a bid to draw attention of the federal government and the international community to the plight Christians and to pray for peace in the nation.
The procession which took the form of a peaceful-prayer march saw the Bishops, Priests and the faithful dressed in black and carrying placards bearing several inscriptions such as, “Thou shall not kill”, “Life is sacred and precious”, “Government rise to your responsibility”, “God hates injustice”
Addressing the congregation during the protest, the President of the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria, Archbishop Augustine Akubeze said:
“Today we the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria with significant support of priests, consecrated persons and our beloved lay faithful embark on a peaceful protest against the high level of insecurity in every part of Nigeria. We are on this peaceful protest on behalf of the over 22 million Catholics and over 100 million Christians in Nigeria. We are protesting against the brutal killings of innocent Nigerians by Boko Haram, and terrorists’ herdsmen. We are gathered here to register our protest against the kidnapping for ransom in every part of Nigeria. We are gathered to mourn the women, children, babies, and men who have been killed by the terrorists. We are gathered to let the Federal Government of Nigeria know that we are tired of hearing from them that Boko Haram has been “technically defeated” even when they still attack with impunity.”
The Archbishop lamented that the Government’s response to terrorist attacks is far below average.
“The failure to protect innocent people from relentless attacks is evil. The lack of prosecution of terrorists is evil”, he said.
He challenged the President of Nigeria, Mohammadu Buhari to fulfil his responsibility of protecting lives and property and bring those behind the killings to justice.
Making a passionate appeal to the international community, he said:
“We the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria call on the international community to come to the aid of Nigeria. We must see ourselves as a global family in the world. The tears and pains of the helpless persecuted Christians in Nigeria should be well reported in the West. Western Journalists and Western Political Leaders should give Boko Haram the attention they give to other terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, and ISIS. If the Western media give comprehensive steadfast coverage to the atrocities happening in Nigeria, they will discover that people are dying daily in Nigeria from the hands of Boko Haram about the same way people are dying in Syria.”
Earlier in his homily at the opening Mass of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria’s Plenary Session held few hours before the protest, Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama said that:
“We cannot pretend that all is well with Nigeria. We are battling with terrorists, cultists, criminals, kidnappers, economic saboteurs, unscrupulous political leaders, religious bigots and partisan traditional rulers. It seems everyone is just passing by, including those who shape our policies and into whose hands we have entrusted our security, the unity and stability, the present and the future of our children.”
He prayed: “May our prayers wipe away evil from our land, soaked by the blood of innocent citizens and melt the stony hearts of people who rejoice at the suffering of other brothers and sisters whom they keep in captivity.”
Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need, Fr. Sebastain Sanni, a Priest of the Archdiocese of Abuja who could be seen carrying the placard “Thou shall not kill” explained that:
“We are all on black to mourn not only our Christian brothers and sisters that were killed by Boko Haram but to protest the collapse of security in the country, the escalated activities of Boko Haram and the government’s lame response. It is raining now but this does not discourage us. We are in the rain praying the Rosary.”
Also speaking, a lay faithful, Ugochukwu Okereke, who participated in the protest alongside his wife told ACN that he was very pleased with this initiative by the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, calling it “a step in the right direction”. He decried the unfortunate situation where Christians are kidnapped and their families asked to pay huge sums of money as ransom, only to be killed after such monies were paid. He hopes for an end to all the evils in the Country.
This is a very difficult time for the faithful in Nigeria as kidnappings and killings of Christians has multiplied in recent months. ACN invites Christians all over the world to pray for peace in Nigeria and other Countries were Christians continue to suffer and die for their faith, as well as for all victims of terror and their families.