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“Shocked, disturbed, saddened”: Christian Leaders in Nigeria Following Killing of Farmers

Christian leaders in Nigeria have, in a collective statement circulated Sunday, December 6, expressed their shock and sorrow following last month’s killing of dozens of rice farmers in Borno State, located within the country’s Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri.

In the statement, the leaders under the auspices of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) make reference to the November 28 episode and call on security agencies “to wake up from their prolonged slumber and save their image” by apprehending the perpetrators of the killings.

“We are shocked, disturbed, saddened to learn that criminals suspected to be terrorists invaded the Garin Kwashebe community and murdered the innocent farmers while harvesting their products,” CAN officials say in the statement dated December 4.

“The massacre was wicked and completely satanic,” they add in the one-page statement signed by Pastor Bayo Oladeji, an Assistant to CAN President, Rev. Dr. Samson Ayokunle.

At least 110 people in Nigeria’s Borno State, Northeastern part of the country were reportedly killed after suspected Boko Haram insurgents riding on motorcycles attacked farmers who were harvesting in their fields November 28.

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“As usual, the number of the deceased gruesomely murdered remains disputed by the Federal Government,” the officials of CAN bemoan and add that the number of those killed “was not only frightening but inexcusable by those who should have prevented it.”

The representatives of Christian leaders further decry what they term an “unprecedented situation” where terrorists and bandits are taxing farmers in the region before they allow them to work on their farms.

“We are in a recession in the country, yet, criminals are still preventing farmers from going to farm to harvest,” they lament and add, “We are not aware of any country where similar lawlessness is taking place without being adequately checked.”

As a way forward, the representatives of Christian leaders who include members of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) call on the government to stop the criminals “before it is too late”.

They also call on the country’s security agencies “to wake up from their prolonged slumber and save their image.”

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In the statement obtained by ACI Africa, CAN leaders further call on the Nigerian government to “think out of the box and take adequate steps to bring the terrorists to their knees rather than finding excuses to justify failure of governance.”

“Mass burials without a full-scale war is unprecedented and unacceptable. We are pained to observe that killings and kidnapping of people are no longer news in the country and no one is immune from it,” the Christian leaders decry in their December 4 statement.

They pose, “Why should we be watching for a nation well situated by God to become a land that is swallowing its inhabitants?”

The representatives of Christian leaders in Africa’s most populous nation say they will not give up praying for Nigeria and advising the government.

They go on to urge the leadership of the country “to be more decisive in taking far-reaching security steps to rise up and do it.”

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Continuous sympathy through press statements or condolence visits after many souls have been wasted is not acceptable anymore, the leaders say and emphasize, “What we need is adequate protection of lives and property by those we have (been) put in charge to do so.”

“May the Lord comfort the relatives of those who were killed and save our nation from total collapse in Jesus’ name,” they implore in the statement dated December 4.

The Christian leaders under CAN are the latest group of representatives to condemn the November 28 killings, which the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, described as the “most violent direct attack against innocent civilians this year.”

On December 2, Pope Francis expressed solidarity with Nigerians following the attacks, and implored that the Lord “converts the hearts of those who commit similar acts, which go gravely against God’s name.”

“I would like to assure my prayer for Nigeria, once again hit by a terrorist attack last Saturday,” the Holy Father said Wednesday, December 2 at the end of his weekly General Audience.

Others who have condemned the frequent attacks in the Northern part of Nigerian include Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Abuja Archdiocese as well as the religious leaders in the country under the auspices of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC).