The leader of the Catholic Church in Nigeria has described how clergy and people alike are at a point of “near desperation” after Sunday Massgoers in the north became the latest victims of extremist violence.
Official Church reports sent to Aid to the Church in Need confirm that during Mass last Sunday (28 October) at St Rita’s Catholic Church, Kaduna, eight people including the suicide bomber died and 134 were injured, 75 of them critically.
Referring to how the attack was the latest in a series of blasts targeting centres including churches, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, stressed people’s “apprehension and comprehension” over apparent government failure to provide security and bring the perpetrators to justice.
In a statement which he sent to Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop Kaigama wrote: “We as pastors have reached a state of near desperation – seeing children, women and men bombed out of existence. Attacks continue to be visited on our people with very little sign that the concerned political and security officials are able to arrest the situation.”
He added: “The mood among lay Catholics is one of apprehension and consternation; that these terrorists can easily get away with horrible acts of criminality against innocent people is very disturbing.”
The archbishop, who was guest-of-honour at Aid to the Church in Need UK’s annual Westminster Event on 20 October, underlined his opposition to reprisal attacks by Christians, stating: “Naturally, there is a spontaneous outburst of anger and the temptation to reprisal attacks by young people. Our message to our people has been consistent: no aggression and no retaliation. This is a test of our Christian faith; a time to be Christ-like.
But he warned the people’s patience was wearing thin, adding: “How long this endurance by affected Christians will last is what I cannot easily tell.”
The archbishop’s statement came after Archbishop Matthew Man-Oso-Ndagoso of Kaduna gave a press conference immediately after the blast, calling for calm and appealing to youth not to retaliate.
Reports, including from the UK-based human rights’ organisation Christian Solidarity Worldwide, quote eyewitness stating that, after being denied entrance at the church gate, the bomber reversed his vehicle and rammed it into the church’s perimeter wall.
The explosion, at about 8.35am, took place while Mass was taking place and among the injured was the parish priest, Father Boni. Aid to the Church in Need reports state that those who were seriously injured were taken to nearby hospitals and some have since been discharged. The attack came just two days after young people from across the religious divide organised a celebration marking the Muslim feast Eid el-Kabir.
Archbishop Kaigama said: “This Sunday attack was totally unexpected. The degree of barbarism that comes with each attack is baffling. The suicide bomber came as a respectable person, well dressed and in a big car ready to kill and he did kill and injure many. He called for prayer for an end to the violence, stating: “We pray a lot, hoping the evil doers will have a change of heart.”