A Nigerian priest has called for the beatification of more than 40 Christians who were killed in an attack on St Francis Xavier’s Church in south-west Nigeria.
Father Emmanuel Faweh, the rector of the St Albert Institute, Kafanchan Diocese, told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that the 41 who lost their lives during a Pentecost Sunday Mass are martyrs and that the first step on their path to sainthood should be set in motion.
He said: “For me, as a priest in the holy Roman Catholic Church, it would not be a bad idea if the Church decides to open a cause for the beatification of those who lost their lives in that attack, because they died professing their faith.
“They died while worshipping God in his own house, so if the Church were to open a process for their beatification, that would go a long way to strengthen the faith of those who are practising their faith in war-torn areas, or in areas like northern Nigeria, where most of those who go by the name of Christians are persecuted.”
More than 70 others were wounded – many with life-changing injuries – in the attack on 5th June 2022.
The massacre in Owo, Ondo State, marked the first time that a Christian church was attacked that far south in Nigeria, with most attacks occurring in the north-east, or Middle Belt.
Father Faweh said that if the terrorists who carried out the attack wanted to frighten Christians or weaken their faith, then they failed.
He said: “Some of the victims still carry their scars and they call them their mark of honour, a reminder that their faith will supersede any kind of attack by those who want to stop the spread of the faith in Nigeria.”
The priest described the remarkable witness given at the reopening of St Francis Xavier’s parish this Easter by one of those caught up in last year’s attack.
“While the celebration was going on, one of the survivors, a nurse who lost both her legs and an eye, was filled with joy and gratitude, and said ‘I have come with my scars as a badge of honour, and there is nothing on the face of the Earth that will make my faith wane’.”
Father Faweh added: “We remember this terror attack with mixed feelings.
“There is a feeling of gratitude that, despite everything that happens, people still profess their faith, but there is also pain, pain that the government, whose sole responsibility is the protection of life and property, has failed to prosecute the criminals who unleashed this attack on very innocent people one year ago.”
According to the rector of the St Albert Institute, the Christian community is hopeful that the administration of the new president Bola Tinubu, who was sworn in on Monday (29th May), will successfully tackle the problem of extremist violence.
He said: “It is our prayer and hope that the current government will be able to consolidate the fight against terrorism that was started by previous governments.
“May this government have the will to name those who sponsor these terrorists, and prosecute them, to discourage those who make money out of these crises and the terrorist attacks that have been going on in this country.”
Father Faweh told ACN: “We will remain hopeful, focused, and nothing is going to deter us from worshipping our God in truth and in spirit.”
Aid to the Church in Need is a Pontifical Foundation directly under the Holy See. As a Catholic charity, ACN supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in need through information, prayer, and action.