Bishops lead peaceful protest against ‘high level of insecurity’ in Nigeria

NIGERIAN CATHOLICS, led by numerous bishops, took to the streets March 1, in Abuja, the Nigerian capital. The crowd had gathered to draw the attention of the federal government and the international community to the plight Christians targeted by Islamist terror, and to pray for peace in the nation.

A demonstrator

The procession which took the form of a peaceful-prayer march saw the bishops, priests and the faithful all dressed in black and carrying placards bearing inscriptions such as, “Thou shall not kill,” “life is sacred,” “Government rise to your responsibility” and “God hates injustice.”

Addressing the demonstrators, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, Archbishop Augustine Akubeze of Benin City said: “Today we the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria with significant support of priests, consecrated persons and our beloved lay faithful embark on a peaceful protest against the high level of insecurity in every part of Nigeria. We are on this peaceful protest on behalf of the over 22 million Catholics and over 100 million Christians in Nigeria. We are protesting against the brutal killings of innocent Nigerians by Boko Haram, and terrorist herdsmen. We are gathered here to register our protest against the kidnapping for ransom in every part of Nigeria. We are gathered to mourn the women, children, babies, and men who have been killed by the terrorists.

“We are gathered to let the Federal Government of Nigeria know that we are tired of hearing from them that Boko Haram has been ‘technically defeated,’ even when they still attack with impunity … The failure to protect innocent people from relentless attacks is evil. The lack of prosecution of terrorists is evil.” He challenged the president of Nigeria, Mohammadu Buhari, to fulfil his responsibility of protecting lives and property and bring those behind the killings to justice.

He continued: “We the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria call on the international community to come to the aid of Nigeria. We must see ourselves as a global family in the world. The tears and pains of the helpless persecuted Christians in Nigeria should be well reported in the West. Western journalists and Western political leaders should give Boko Haram the attention they give to other terrorist groups, like Al-Qaeda and ISIS. If the Western media give comprehensive steadfast coverage to the atrocities happening in Nigeria, they will discover that people are dying daily in Nigeria at the hands of Boko Haram about the same way people are dying in Syria.”

Earlier in his homily at the opening Mass for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria’s plenary session held a few hours before the protest march began, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Abuja said: “We cannot pretend that all is well with Nigeria. We are battling with terrorists, cultists, criminals, kidnappers, economic saboteurs, unscrupulous political leaders, religious bigots and partisan traditional rulers. It seems everyone is just passing by, including those who shape our policies and into whose hands we have entrusted our security, the unity and stability, the present and the future of our children.”

He prayed: “May our prayers wipe away evil from our land soaked by the blood of innocent citizens, and melt the stony hearts of people who rejoice at the suffering of other brothers and sisters whom they keep in captivity.”

Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Father Sebastain Sanni, a priest of the Archdiocese of Abuja—who was carrying the placard with “Thou shall not kill”—explained that ‘we are all in black to mourn not only our Christian brothers and sisters that were killed by Boko Haram, but also to protest the collapse of security in the country, the escalated activities of Boko Haram and the government’s lame response.  It is raining now but this does not discourage us. We are in the rain praying the rosary.”

—Grace Attu