Tears and protests as Catholics bury 16 Christians killed in Church
Catholics in Nigeria staged a nationwide protest coinciding with the funeral of 16 Christians, including two priests; Rev. Fr. Joseph Gor and Rev. Fr. Felix Tyolaha of St. Ignatius Quasi Parish, killed by Islamic Fulani cattle herdsmen during worship in Benue on 24 April. All 16 victims were buried at the Ayati pilgrim site at Ikpayongo in Gwer East Local Government Area of Benue State, central Nigeria, on Tuesday 22 May.
The Catholic Bishops in Nigeria had called all Catholics out in a ‘March for Life’ protest. In most states of the country, Funeral mass was held and Christians gathered to pray and then marched through streets carrying banners and posters with some inscriptions saying ‘No more killing’, ‘Christians are citizens too,’ ‘We say no to herdsmen killing’, Nigerians, arise and stand for justice,’ demanding President Buhari to stop the massacres.
Samuel Ortom, the Benue State Governor, in a speech at the funeral mass, said “this is the third mass burial in Benue this year. These people were killed in the Church and not at the farms. We know the killers in Benue State but the security agents have refused to arrest them. The Miyyetti Allah has vowed to over-run Benue. Many countries have cattle but do not kill innocent people. The idea of cattle ranching must not be ignored.” Ortom stressed.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, speaking at the Funeral in Benue on Tuesday 22 May, said, “the Priests and the Mbalom victims were in the safest place when men who did not fear God killed them. They kill the flesh but could not kill the Spirit. As we remember today this satanic killings let us know that these killers will never know peace.” Osinbajo, did not give any assurances that the government would go after the Fulani Herders who the governor said are known to be the perpetrators of the massacre nor pressure the Miyyetti Allah, their political pressure group, to stop the killings. The Vice president reiterated what the government had always said, “We have to strengthen our security apparatus” and called for forgiveness “which is the highest form of giving.”
The Vice President, reassure the thousands of people gathered that “the power of darkness will never prevail against the Church.’
Archbishop Augustin Akubeze, of Benin City, however pointed out that “It is not enough to condemn the killings. The killers must be arrested. We call on the Federal Government to stop this killings. Our tears refuse to dry because of failure of Government.”
Bishop Wilfred Chikpa Anagebe, of Makurdi, pointedly said “the government is supporting the Miyetti Allah to kill people.” He declared that “until the sponsors and perpetrators of these killers are arrested, there is no justice.”
Rev. Gideon Para-Mallam, Executive Secretary, International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES), said “16 were buried today, the rest had been buried earlier because their bodies were so disfigured that they could not be preserved.” Para-Mallam, describing the funeral, said, “the agony was the type I have never witnessed before.” And prayed that “God give no rest to the killers until they are brought to justice or conversion.”
Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos