Nigeria: ‘Now we are living in blood inspired by the failed promises of yesterday’

On May 31, Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto, Nigeria, gave a homily—excerpted below—during a wake for Father Alphonsus Bello, who was murdered May 21 by unknown assailants who also kidnapped Father Keke, the pastor emeritus of St. Vincent Ferrer Church in Malumfashi, where Father Bello served as pastor. Father Keke was freed after two weeks.

… [T]he situation in Nigeria beggars belief and comprehension. Nowhere in the world are innocent citizens being gruesomely murdered in broad daylight with absolutely no consequences. This could be a fitting way to describe how our government sees us today:

… Your security is in your own hands. Keeping you safe is not our immediate priority. Foreign bandits or anyone for that matter can come at will, kill, loot, rape, kidnap, and murder you. They can wipe out your communities, destroy your homes, your farmlands, properties and so on. They can kidnap or murder your children at will. They can rustle your cattle. If they kidnap your children, your wives, or husbands, we will consider you criminals for negotiating for their release with the bandits. We are preparing a law that could see you go to jail for 15 years for this heinous crime against your fatherland.  

… My brothers and sisters, today, as we all relive the circumstances of the mindless murder of our beloved son and priest, Father Alphonsus Yashim Bello, we are forced to ask ourselves, how did Nigeria come to this tragic situation that we find ourselves in today? As I have said elsewhere, there is no ambiguity about those who are killing our people and why they are doing so and where their inspiration comes from. We hear and live with stories of complicity at the highest level. We as Christians can only rely on the faithful word of God.

… Today, Nigeria stands on a threshold, between light and darkness, good and evil, death and life. It all started when some of our politicians decided to use democracy to install theocracy by subterfuge. In other words, they had no commitment to the democratic ideals of integration, diversity, good governance, and the pursuit of the principles of a democratic society. They decided to tempt their supporters with the claims that they could create a theocratic democracy. Now we are living in blood inspired by the failed promises of yesterday. We are men and women of faith and our response to these tragedies as Christians must be to uphold the truth. Amidst the encircling gloom, despite being far from home, we must ask to be led by the kingly light.

… These tragic times call for a renewal of our faith in the redemptive power of God. Moses said to Israel: The commandment that I am giving you today is not too difficult or beyond your reach. It is not up in the sky. You do not have to ask, who will go up and bring it down for us so that we can hear and obey it. Nor is it on the other side of the ocean (Dt. 30:11-14).

… We can ask all the questions we want about what might have been. We can ask … what if Father Alphonsus had travelled? What if Father Joseph Keke had been in a deep sleep and did not wake up when he heard the sounds of the murderous gang? We can speculate as much as we want. So, if anyone should ask you why God took Father Alphonsus, just tell him or her, the Master has need of him. Isaiah warned us: Who has known the mind of the Lord, who has been His counsellor or His instructor? (Is. 40:13). St. Augustine re-echoes the same sentiments when he said: All always ask what they wish, but do not always hear the answer that they wish. The man is your best servant who is not so much concerned to hear from you what he wills as to will what he hears from you. We have heard you Lord.

Father Bello is laid to rest