Nigeria: Bishop of bombed diocese calls for peace amid fears of retaliation

A bishop whose diocese in Nigeria experienced a suicide bomb attack at the end of last month has once again called for peace – warning about the dangers of reprisal attacks. Archbishop Matthew Man-Oso Ndagoso of Kaduna’s appeal came as he released more information about the bomb blast that devastated Saint Rita’s Catholic Church in the Malali area of Kaduna City during the 9am Mass on Sunday 28 October 2012.

Archbishop Ndagoso underlined the importance of peace – and of not participating in retaliation attacks against Muslims. He said: “Working for peace is not an optional extra that we can choose to ignore. We can only choose to ignore it at our own peril.”

The archbishop said he was speaking out “to continue to call for calm, forgiveness, reconciliation, justice in order to give peace a chance.”

Commending young Christians for not taking the law into their own hands after the attack, he went on to say: “Sometimes God allows very difficult and challenging situations to come our way in order for us to bear authentic Christian witness and, I think that the one we have at hand is one such rare moment.

“We should and must rise up to it to be witnesses of the Gospel.”

According to the archbishop’s report there were more than 1,000 worshippers in the church when the jeep loaded with explosives rammed through the wall of the compound – after failing to gain entrance through the security gate. He said: “The loaded car exploded right behind the choir stand and the children’s area breaking the wall leaving behind a horrific scene of devastation.”

The archbishop confirmed that a total of nine people were killed, including the suicide bomber, and more than 134 persons, including parish priest, Fr Michael Boni, had sustained various injuries – some of them serious.

He expressed his admiration for the security agencies for their prompt response after the attack and the emergency relief agencies who tended to the injured. The archbishop added: “We should and must all be security conscious and support the security agents in dealing with the monster we have at hand.”

Immediately after the bomb attack the archbishop sent text messages to all his priests asking them to appeal to parishioners and others in their neighbourhood not to organise reprisal attacks. Archbishop Ndagoso stressed that there was not a religious conflict in the country.

He said: “Christians and Muslims are not at war with each other. Our country is at war with religious fanatics and criminals who are killing innocent Nigerians regardless of their religion. Good Christians and Muslims and, indeed, all people of goodwill must work together to identify, isolate and punish these criminals according to the laws of the land.”

Archbishop Ndagoso’s words echo those of Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, who was in the UK last month to address Aid to the Church in Need’s benefactors at their annual Westminster Event.

Archbishop Kaigama also said he wanted to dispel the impression that Christians and Muslims in Nigeria were at war.

“People say the Christians and Muslims are fighting each other – no that is not the case, we are not at war, there is not a religious war. The problem is there is a tiny group, a fanatical group, by the name of Boko Haram. They are the ones who have started a cycle of attacks destruction and killing in Nigeria.”

Sunday and daily Masses have resumed in St Rita’s Church, starting on Sunday 4 November 2012.

Archbishop Ndagoso said: “The attendance at Mass last Sunday was overwhelming. The turnout of people clearly demonstrates their faith and we feel encouraged and strengthened by this act and exhort them to become even stronger in the practice of the faith and witnessing to it.”

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