The archbishop of one of the world’s most perilous dioceses has described how he has five guard dogs to protect him at home and travels around with an armed escort.
Archbishop Matthew Ndagoso of Kaduna, in northern Nigeria, gave Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) a glimpse into life in his diocese in northern Nigeria.
He said that eight of his priests had been kidnapped in just three years – three were killed, one is still missing and the others were freed.
He added that one of the murdered priests showed tremendous courage.
The archbishop said: “While they were pointing an AK-47 at him, he told his attackers that they should repent of their evil, so they killed him.”
Life is increasingly dangerous for Christians in many parts of Nigeria, as highlighted in ACN’s 2022 edition of Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians oppressed for their Faith.
Between January 2021 and June 2022, Islamist extremists fuelled the killing of more than 7,600 Nigerian Christians and abducted 5,200, according to ACN’s findings.
Archbishop Ndogoso said that priests in many regions of Nigeria must weigh up the risks carefully before travelling.
He added: “We often pass by vehicles on the road which have been attacked, and it is a reminder that it could happen to us at any moment.”
The archbishop said: “Faith doesn’t fall from the sky. It needs ministers, but we know that we run risks whenever we send somebody somewhere.
“We are returning to the first days of the Church.”
Archbishop Ndagoso said Islamists and others seeking to incite division and conflict in the country are constantly trying to pit Christians and Muslims against each other.
But he added: “Religion should unite us, not divide”.
Describing his own early life-story, the archbishop highlighted the potential for good inter-faith relations, saying he was born to a leader of a traditional religion but asked to be baptised when aged 10 while attending a Catholic school.
He said: “My father never reproached me for my decision, he was happy that I converted… although he would have preferred that I got married.”