A year to the day following the Pentecost Sunday church massacre in Nigeria, a petition calling for justice was handed in at 10 Downing Street.
Fiona Bruce MP, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, received the petition organised by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) (UK).
On 5th June 2022, 41 people were killed and more than 80 were injured when terrorists opened fire and detonated explosives during Mass at St Francis Xavier’s Church, Owo, south-west Nigeria.
Nobody has been charged in connection with the atrocity which took place in broad daylight in a church packed with witnesses.
Human rights champions and Nigeria experts Baroness Caroline Cox and Lord David Alton of Liverpool yesterday (5th June) joined ACN (UK) National Director Caroline Hull and Head of Press & Public Affairs John Pontifex to hand in the petition.
Lord Alton told ACN: “I was shocked to hear about these cruel and barbaric attacks in the parish of St Francis Xavier in Owo. Things only get worse when the perpetrators are not brought to justice.
“It is important that we lose no opportunity to keep reminding the world about the price that people are paying for their faith.”
Also present at No. 10 were Father Matthew Madewa from Ondo Diocese where Owo is located, ACN (UK) National Ecclesiastical Assistant Father Dominic Robinson from the Church of the Immaculate Conception, London and Mike Watts, a teacher from St Benedict’s School, Ealing with Gabrielle, a Year 8 pupil.
Father Madewa told ACN: “We believe something positive will come out of the petition. It is important to raise awareness. The more awareness we can generate, the more likely a positive outcome is.
“We are hopeful that the new president of Nigeria [Bola Tinubu, sworn in on 29th May] will do more to serve justice and provide security.”
Survivors of the Owo attack told ACN that they will continue to feel unsafe until those responsible are bought to justice.
Father Michael Abugan, the parish priest at St Francis Xavier’s, said that his congregation remembered the victims at a candlelight procession and memorial Mass on the anniversary.
Father Abugan said, on behalf of the survivors: “I am hoping that the new government will be entirely different from the past administration in its response to security matters.
“We also believe that the new president will do his best to bring different ethnic groups and religions together.”