The Catholic Church in Nigeria has unanimously called on the Faithful to rise to the incessant killings of Christians in the country and defend themselves. The national Catholic body on 22nd May 2018, organized a nationwide peaceful protest in response to the bloodshed in Benue and many other parts of the country where Christians are killed in cold blood and in solidarity to the Catholic Diocese of Makurdi whose two Priests and 17 parishioners were killed in Ayar Mbalom Community in the Gwer East Local Government Area of Benue State on Tuesday, April 24th 2018.
The deceased Rev Fathers were identified as Fr. Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha. It was gathered that the Catholic Faithful had gone for Morning Mass around 5.30am and unknown to them, the militia herdsmen had laid ambush in the community. The armed men later invaded the church and killed all the early callers in the Church. The herdsmen were said to have set houses ablaze in the village, shooting indiscriminately as villagers fled.
In his homily at the Holy Ghost Cathedral Enugu during the solidarity Eucharistic celebration organized in honor of the slain priests and faithful in Benue, the episcopal vicar for priests, Rev. Fr. Nnamdi Nwankwo re-echoed the message of total denunciation of the turn of events in the country earlier made by the Catholic Bishop Conference of Nigeria, CBCN. (He said, the Catholic Bishops in their wisdom approved three options for the protest which respective parishes could choose from.
The first option was to organize a peaceful demonstration on the streets; the second was to organize a rosary procession while the third would be to celebrate a Holy Mass in the given diocesan Cathedral for this intention. In this regard, the bishop of Enugu Diocese, His Lordship, Most Rev CVC Onaga chose the Holy Mass which is the highest prayer and the greatest thing a Christian can do at this critical moment.
“This call on solidarity is a very serious call. The Catholic Bishops have set the pace with their communiqué and made direct statements to the President and they showed that enough is enough" , Fr. Nwankwo submitted.
Continuing he stated, "I think for the first time I can see the bishops together coming to issue a powerful statement; it has never happened. That shows that things have turned the worst and we believe the Bishops' calls are meant to be resonated in different forms and ways. Yes, the Bible says if you are slapped on one cheek, turn the other cheek, but, I know when Jesus was slapped and spitted upon, he asked the guy, why are you doing this to me? We can still say ask 'why?'.
Things have really happened and the Church seems to be docile to say the least, very docile and very uncommitted. I challenge us to reason: if those two priests were not killed and the 17 members were not killed in Benue we wouldn't have come up with this strong decisions while Christians are being massacred all over the country for a long time now and we have continued looking and hoping. It is nice to hope and prayer is one of the biggest aspects of hope but faith without action is useless", Fr. Nwankwo said.
He further called on Christians to wake up from their slumber and rise to the occasion and get involved in the political process. In his words, "It's time for us to wake up; the bishops have set the pace. It is true that the clergy are not supposed to participate in partisan politics but we are not devoid of politics because according to Aristotle, we are all political animals and anybody who says he is not political is either above humans or below humans; such person is either a god or a beast. We're political and we're spiritual too. We have these two wings all the time and we must carry these two wings at the same time, we cannot continue to flap one wing against the other or denying the other".
Fr. Nwankwo also decried the level of apathy shown by Christians in the Political sphere of the country and wondered why Christians have continued to stay away from politics and leave others decide our collective fate.
We must be very active. Not in the sense of partisan politics but active in the sense of those things that affects us, things that affects our living and if you don't have a good ambient for your spirituality, it will be truncated. There is need for us to do what we are doing now and to do more", he said.
He further reminded all not to feel too comfortable with the situation because it is happening in Benue. According to him, Benue is not far from Enugu and the anything is possible in Enugu as well.
Fr. Nwankwo called for massive decisive action among Christians. According to him, Christians should shun complaining and act. He spoke against the insincerity of the security network in the country that have seen their conduct come under harsh scrutiny. He wondered why security details will be sent to areas where mass killings occurred to forestall reprisals while no investigation is conducted or culprits brought to book. He called for vigilance and action.
We must rise, really rise we must rise actively we must talk actively, and we will also equip ourselves with the weapon, the weapon of prayer", he said.
Buttressing further the power of prayer he said, "the rosary, we must have that. It's one thing to have it, is another thing to use it. We must be prayerful people and it is only when you're prayerful and active in so many other ways that you can call yourself a true Christian", he said.
He raised the consciousness of the daily threat the Church is facing and how it has intensified and declared that the Church must push with their Permanent Voters Card, PVC.
"Why can't everybody mandate their family, make a special role call in your family for anybody up to 16 years to show their PVCs because it is war time we're in", Fr. Nwankwo declared.
He further said that, anyone who does not possess the Permanent Voters Card and is eligible should consider himself as not a Catholic and will that it would only take the grace of God for the person to make heaven.
He finally paid tribute to those that were killed in Uzo-Uwani sometime last year and called on the faithful to reject the money bags in the coming election, on which according to him, our life as a people and as a nation depends.
The Eucharistic celebration which was massively attended by Priests, Religious and lay Faithful across the diocese was presided over by the Vicar General, Very Rev. Msgr. Luke Adike who stood in for the Bishop, Most Rev. Callistus Onaga.
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