NIGERIA: Terror-attack survivor named recipient of new faith award

Margaret Attah, before the bomb blast in Owo, Nigeria
Margaret Attah, before the bomb blast in Owo, Nigeria

A survivor of a jihadist atrocity in Nigeria which left 41 churchgoers dead is flying into the UK to receive a new award recognising fortitude and faith in the face of persecution.

Nurse Margaret Attah will be the first individual to be honoured with Aid to the Church in Need (UK)’s ‘Courage to be a Christian’ award, which will be presented as part of the Catholic charity’s #RedWednesday programme at St George’s Cathedral, Southwark on Wednesday 22nd November.

Mrs Attah lost both legs and the sight in one eye when a bomb went off in St Francis Xavier’s Church in Owo, Ondo State on Pentecost Sunday 2022. Islamist extremist group Boko Haram/ISWAP later claimed responsibility for the terrorist atrocity, which also saw gunmen opening fire on the congregation.

Mrs Attah will be receiving the award on behalf of all those from St Francis Xavier’s Church who suffered in the atrocity.

Dr Caroline Hull, National Director Aid to the Church in Need (UK), said: “We are absolutely delighted that Margaret is coming to the UK to be ACN’s guest and receive our first-ever ‘Courage to be Christian’ award.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to all of those who suffered during the church attack.

“Margaret is really receiving the reward on behalf of all of those who, not only endured this terrible ordeal, but through the power of Faith, are learning to live with their life-changing injuries.”

Mrs Attah was one of more than 70 Massgoers who were wounded in the attack on 5th June 2022.

A number of survivors suffered serious injuries – Victoria Adeseluka lost the use of her legs after being hit by two bullets in the back.

The Church in Nigeria has also paid tribute to those who lived through the terrorist raid.

In June this year, Father Emmanuel Faweh, the rector of the St Albert Institute, Kafanchan Diocese, called for the 41 who lost their lives during the attack on the church in Owo to be recognised as martyrs – and for the first step of their canonisation process to be set in motion.

Archbishop Miguel Maury Buendia, the Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain, will present the award to Mrs Attah.

Speaking to ACN earlier this month, he said: “It is a great honour for me to be invited to present the first ever #RedWednesday ‘Courage to be Christian’ award.

“Religious freedom is of the utmost importance and Aid to the Church in Need is doing a wonderful service by honouring those who have shown such extraordinary commitment to their faith in the face of persecution.”

The #RedWednesday events will start with a gathering in the Cathedral’s Courtyard before Mass at 6pm, which will be concelebrated by the nuncio and Archbishop John Wilson of Southwark. The cathedral will be lit red both inside and out.

The presentation of the ‘Courage to be Christian’ award to Mrs Attah will be made at the end of the Africa-themed service.