Father Patrick Anthony Akpabio maintains a very close relationship with his country, from Spain, where he is studying, thanks to the training scholarship provided to him by generous benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). He gave a personal testimony of the situation in his country Nigeria, during ACN’s Night of Witness in Spain last month.

“Nigeria is a land known for its hospitality, its culture, its delicious food and its natural riches. But today it has become a land in which the blood of its people is spilled, which is mixed with the wine of joy. In Nigeria, bullets go with bread; water, with tears, and joy with pain. I am not proud to share the negative aspects of my country in this meeting of prayer and communion, but the attacks against human life and religious freedom are terrible. That is why we must make them known, to encourage your faith against aridity and indifference.

The faith of Nigerian Christians is threatened by a spiral of martyrdom. There is a lot of insecurity, murders, kidnappings, robberies, proliferation of sects and armed groups, growing organ trafficking and the forced displacement of people.

One of the phenomena that greatly affects the Church is the brutal murder and kidnapping of priests. The consequences are traumatic, with the dispersion of God’s people. Many people have been displaced, fleeing their homes out of fear. The victims and their families live with irreparable pain.

Other cases are violent attacks against Christian communities. I will mention the 300 Christians murdered in December 2023, in various attacks against several villages and the burning of churches in Mangu, in January 2024. The list of victims of attacks is very long. These attacks are attributed to radical Islamic groups, made up of members of the Fulani ethnic group, who have always dedicated themselves to herding. But jihadist groups such as Boko Haram and the Islamic State of West Africa Province continue to operate. Radical currents and weapons are arriving in Nigeria and establishing themselves strongly.

I remember with pain Deborah Samuel, a Christian Nigerian university student who was stoned and burned to death in Sokoto by some university classmates. Her alleged crime was writing “Fire of the Holy Spirit” on a WhatsApp to a class group, because a Muslim classmate posted something about the Prophet Muhammad, when the WhatsApp group was intended only for academic topics.

With increasing persecution, priests live in danger, because they have no immunity from possible attacks and kidnappings. Every priest is an attractive target, we are an endangered species. It is a worrying time for us.

But from the point of view of courageous faith, should we abandon Christ? No. We understand very well that the attack is not our fault, it is because of the one we are following: Jesus Christ. The intention is to erase the history of Christ and the power of Him, from Nigeria. For this reason, every priest lives the joy of the beatitudes. Our courage in this time is the box in which hope resonates and gives strength to our flock. The principle of the Christian faith is Love. Christ taught us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

In places where churches are burned, priests still gather the parishioners who remain under the mango trees to celebrate Masses in the open.

There is now no part of Nigeria where the life of faith is not in danger. Those who go to church do not know if they will return safely. Those who are in the churches do not know if they will leave them safe and sound. Our Christian schools and seminaries are not spared. Christian churches do not have police or weapons or militias to fight against insecurity in a society whose security is compromised.

In Owo, diocese of Ondo, the lives of 40 Christians were cut short by the terrorist attack on the church, also leaving 80 injured, during the celebration of Mass on the feast of Pentecost 2022. Those people got up in the morning, They cleaned themselves, ate breakfast… they went to church and there they were murdered. Among them, a newly married couple who were going to thank God for their marriage, a doctor and his wife… The pain of one is the pain of all.

The Church preaches and teaches people values ​​of peace, community life, promoting forgiveness, harmony, unity, justice and the protection of the vulnerable. Furthermore, in the country there are centers for people displaced by jihadist attacks, whom the Church supports spiritually and morally. In my diocese of Ikot Ekpene, our bishop continues to build rehabilitation centers for the traumatized.

The Church is economically poor and the vulnerable are more than the resources to support them. That is why we thank the benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need for the financial support to sustain these projects, for the training of seminarians and the support for the maintenance of priests.

I’ll share another story with you: a young man in my diocese was listening to Christian music. He was very discouraged by the suffering of the world. He then joined his hands to Heaven saying: ‘God, if you are alive, why is there so much suffering in the world? Do something about it.’ And God answered: ‘I already did it. I created you to do something about it. So go out and do something about the world’s suffering.’

Love and charity are the most powerful weapons in the world and not bullets. In the face of jihadists, kidnappings and discrimination against Christians in Nigeria, we will use faith, even though our dignity has been subjugated and our religious rights stolen. We make our blood available to the Kingdom of God to ensure that good is not defeated by darkness. Personally, my fear is not Boko Haram, it is not failing and abandoning God. So please pray for us and lend us your love and solidarity. ”