A Heartfelt Message as Nigeria mourns and buries the priests and lay persons murdered in a church by Herdsmen/Terrorists in Benue State on 24th April 2018.
Merciful Saviour, hear our humble prayer
For all your servants passed beyond life’s call
Though sin has touched them,
Yet their weakness spare
O grant them pardon, Jesus Saviour blest
And give their spirits light and endless rest
As we the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria met with Pope Francis in Rome on the 26th April 2018 on our official working visit, it was with downcast spirits and deep sorrow that we did so. For just two days earlier, on the 24th April and only two days after we arrived Rome from Nigeria, the sad news of the murder of two priests and seventeen lay persons while they were worshipping God at Holy Mass in the early hours of that day reached us. As the news already reached the Holy Father before our meeting him, we Nigerians bore real grief and shame as we met him. However, his consoling words and his prayer for the victims and for an end to such violence did indeed light our spirits.
This gruesome murder in Benue State has since been followed by further heartless killings. Unfortunately, since 1945 this nation has known periodic blood-letting climaxing in the coups d’état of January 1966 and July 1966 which led to a massive pogrom and the civil war atrocities.
The Manifesto of “No Victor No Vanquished” as well as promises, panels and conferences for reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction proposed by successive governments of the nation have neither been taken seriously nor yielded any lasting fruit of peace. Rather, the hateful divide resident in the colonial yoking of our various nation-tribes without serious moral-affective bonding has expanded and widened with the more conscious assertion of ethnic, religious, class and cultural claims and rights.
The reason for the expansion of our hateful divide lies squarely on the political, military and religious leaders of Nigeria, who have so far failed to be nationally inclusive in their care and concern for Nigerians. Individual or group selfishness has been more the order of the day. But where the moral, religious, political and military will exists to include every Nigerian in our national care and concern, this hateful divide will begin to crumble and eventually disappear.
Apartheid in South Africa for many decades seemed like an impregnable mountain. But thanks to the self-sacrificing leadership of Nelson Mandela and the co-operation of some other national leaders, South Africa is today a new freed nation.
Between 1945 and 1988 the separation of East and West Germany remained an apparently unbridgeable gulf. Today we now hear of only one united Germany. It is not impossible for divided, hateful and murderous Nigeria to transform into a united caring and equi-protective Nigeria.
As we mourn and pray for the repose of the souls of all Nigerians hatefully and brutally murdered in this nation, we prayerfully and spiritedly protest the hatred, the enmity and the murderous divide at the heart of Nigeria. May God raise for us God-fearing and people-caring leaders, who will take us from this nation of sorrow, anxiety and tears to a new Nigeria where inclusive care and concern will prevail; where no more blood would be shed; no more Nigerian terrorized, persecuted or oppressed.
North Korea and South Korea separated bitterly since 1953 are even giving signs of hope for peace. Why can’t our leaders take a cue from them and bring us a needed surprise for good?
God bless Nigeria. God hearken to our earnest prayer and plea for truly caring and patriotically concerned leader for Nigeria.
May the souls of all the faithful departed – through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen! Jesus, mercy – Mary, help!
Anthony J.V. Obinna
Archbishop of Owerri