, 18 January, 2021 / 6:55 PM
Following the recent murder of Fr. John Gbakaan, a Catholic Priest of Nigeria’s Minna Diocese, Christian leaders in the West African nation have called on the Federal Government to put a stop to the crimes targeting Clerics.
According to PM News, a Nigerian online publication, Fr. Gbakaan and his younger brother were attacked by unknown gunmen Friday, January 15 at about 9 p.m. along Lambata-Lapai road in Nigeria’s Niger State after visiting their mother in Makurdi, Benue State.
“We are simply pleading to the Federal Government and all security agencies to do whatever it will take to bring this evil to a stop,” the Vice Chairman of The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Northern Nigeria, John Hayab has been quoted as saying.
In the Sunday, January 17 news report, the CAN official further appeals, “All we are asking from the government is protection from evil men that are destroying our lives and properties.”
The assailants of Gbakaan along with his younger brother are said to have attacked them with machetes, hacking the Cleric’s body beyond recognition. His brother was reportedly abducted and he is yet to be found.
Fr. Gbakaan's body was found tied to a tree in a bush the following day, Saturday, January 16. His vehicle was also found in the bush.
The Cleric’s murder is the latest of a series of threats on the lives of members of the Clergy in Africa’s most populous country.
On December 27, the Auxiliary Bishop of Nigeria’s Archdiocese of Owerri, Moses Chikwe, was abducted alongside his driver and released after five days of captivity.
Fr. Valentine Oluchukwu Ezeagu, a member of the Sons of Mary Mother of Mercy (SMMM) was kidnapped in Imo State en route to his father’s funeral in the neighboring Anambra State, Southeastern Nigeria on December 15. The Nigerian Cleric was released the following day.
In November, Fr. Matthew Dajo, a Cleric of the Archdiocese of Abuja, was kidnapped and released after ten days in captivity.
In the January 17 news report, Hayab who described the murder of Fr. Gbakaan as having been received “with great shock and pains” says that the continuous kidnappings, which seem to target members of the Clergy, is costing pastoral vocations.
“Today in Northern Nigeria, many people are living in fear and many young people are afraid to become pastors because pastors’ lives are in great danger,” the CAN official says.
He explains, “When Bandits or kidnappers realise that their victims are Priests or Pastors, it seems a violent spirit does take over their heart to demand more ransom and in some cases go to the extent of killing the victim.”
On January 10, Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Abuja who described the acts of kidnapping as criminal, sinful and degrading to humanity said the continued abductions will give the country “a bad name” internationally.
“Left unchecked by the Nigerian authorities, this shameful and disgusting act will continue to give Nigeria a bad name and scare away visitors and investors to the country,” said Archbishop Kaigama.
In December, the U.S. State Department listed Nigeria among the worst countries for religious freedom, describing the West African nation as a “country of particular concern (CPC)”. This is a formal designation reserved for nations where the worst violations of religious freedom are taking place, the other countries being China, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia.
The action by the U.S. State Department was lauded by the leadership of Knights of Columbus, with the Supreme Knight, Carl Anderson saying December 16, “Nigeria's Christians have suffered grievously at the hands of Boko Haram and other groups.”
The murders and kidnappings of Christians in Nigeria now “verge on genocide,” Anderson added.
“The Christians of Nigeria, both Catholic and Protestant, deserve attention, recognition and relief now,” Anderson further said, adding, “Nigeria's Christians should be able to live in peace and practice their faith without fear.”
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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
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