ACN responds to Pentecost Massacre in Nigeria
NEW YORK (June 7, 2022)—AID TO THE CHURCH IN NEED (ACN), an international Catholic charity serving the suffering and persecuted Church around the world, condemns the June 5 horrific attack on the Catholic Church of St. Francis Xavier in Owo, Ondo State, in southwestern Nigeria. The terrorists killed more than 50 worshipers, including many children.
“We extend our prayers for the victims, the wounded, their families and the entire Catholic community of Owo,” said George Marlin, chairman of the board of ACNUSA. “We stand with the Diocese of Ondo to help treat the wounded and those traumatized by this horrible tragedy.”
“This is the latest in the ongoing wave of brutal attacks on Nigeria’s Christians. Political and religious leaders around the world must condemn this barbarism and put pressure on Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to do what it takes finally to stop the violence and protect the Nigerian people. It is also imperative that the U.S. State Department reinstate Nigeria as a country of Particular Concern that violates religious freedom. Christians are not the only victims of faith-based violence in Nigeria, but they are the principal target,” Marlin stated.
Just weeks ago, in northern Nigeria, a female Christian student, accused of blasphemy, was stoned and burned to death. Boko Haram continues to terrorize Christians in the country’s northeast, while for years deadly attacks by largely Muslim Fulani herdsmen have been targeting Christian farmers in Nigeria’s Middle Belt.
The identity of the attackers in Owo has not been established yet, but an attack on Christian worshippers during a Pentecost celebration makes clear that Nigeria’s Christians need adequate protection from atrocity crimes, regardless of their origin.
The carnage in Owo evokes the horrific suicide bombings of churches in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday 2019. Perpetrators picked a major feast day of the Church, knowing the church would be full. Similarly, in Owo, another major celebration was turned into a bloodbath.
“This is a brutal attack not only on a community of faith in Nigeria, but is an attack on the entire Church,” Marlin said, adding that “ACN—representing Catholics around the world—will come to the aid of our brothers and sisters in Nigeria in solidarity of prayer and support.”
“The color of the priest’s liturgical vestments for Pentecost is red, signifying the fire of the Holy Spirit,” said Father Roger Landry, ACNUSA National Chaplain. “Little did the Catholics at St. Francis Xavier in Owo, on the feast celebrating the Church’s birthday, know that their garments would similarly be drenched red in blood.”
Yet, Father Landry added, “Our beloved brothers and sisters in the faith, including the little children, have not died in vain. Their blood will fertilize the soil of the faith in Nigeria and their martyrdom has already inspired and emboldened believers around the world.”
ACNUSA has obtained video and photographs taken during and in the immediate aftermath of the attack. But the images are too gruesome for publication.