NIGERIA: Bishop reflects on evils of terrorism and lack of justice a year after church massacre

A group of bishops visit St Francis Catholic Xavier's Church after the terrorist attack. Bishop Jude Arogundade on the left.
A group of bishops visit St Francis Catholic Xavier's Church after the terrorist attack. Bishop Jude Arogundade on the left.

On the first anniversary of the Pentecost Sunday 2022 church attack in Nigeria, the bishop of the diocese where the slaughter took place has said that the evils of terrorism can scar people for a lifetime.

Bishop Jude Arogundade told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that the extremists who killed 41 people and injured more than 80 at St Francis Xavier’s Catholic Church in Owo, south-west Nigeria on 5th June last year are still at large.

Explosives went off and gunmen disguised as worshippers opened fire inside the packed church during Mass.

Bishop Arogundade called for “sober reflection on how far we are ready to go to protect human life and its dignity and sanctity as a nation”.

The bishop highlighted that people often say “time heals and we should move on by committing the memory of the victims to history,” but it is important to mark the anniversary of the massacre by continuing “to remind the world of the evil of terrorism and the long-time effects it has on people”.

Despite no one having been brought to justice one year on, the bishop remained committed to urging those in positions of power to take the necessary steps to prevent similar tragedies.

According to Father Michael Abugan, the parish priest at St Francis Xavier’s, the community will not be at peace until the perpetrators are brought to justice.

Father Michael said: “We don’t want to believe that justice will be denied.

“We are hoping, and we know that one day the government will do what is necessary to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

ACN (UK) has organised a petition asking the government to call on its Nigerian counterparts to bring to justice those responsible for the Owo massacre and many other killings and abductions of Christians in the country.

Fiona Bruce MP, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, is receiving the petition on the first anniversary of the attack.

Bishop Arogundade fears all the families directly affected by the tragedy “will bear the scars for a long time to come”.

He stressed: “This anniversary presents an opportunity for us to reflect on what we have done so far and what further we can do to relieve those who are still suffering and help them live with their grief and trauma.”

He concluded: “We hope all people of goodwill will join us and support us in prayers to comfort a grieving Church.

“We still have so much to do to console the victims. Whatever support we get will help us to meet many of our needs.”