Pentecost Sunday Massacre in Nigerian Church “an act of genocide”: Catholic Bishop

Bishop Jude Ayodeji Arogundade of Ondo, Nigeria. Credit: Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)

A Nigerian Catholic Bishop has, in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International, said the Pentecost Sunday attack on St. Francis Xavier Owo Catholic Parish of Ondo Diocese that left 39 Catholics killed and more than 80 injured was an “act of genocide”.

In the interview shared with ACI Africa Wednesday, July 6, the Local Ordinary of Ondo Diocese, Bishop Jude Ayodeji Arogundade, who recently traveled to the United States crying out for justice for his country’s persecuted Christians said immediate action is needed to fight insecurity in Nigeria.

“What but pure evil would make a man kill a four-year-old and a two-year-old like this, in church during Mass?” Bishop Arogundade posed during his interview with ACN on the eve of the June 28-30 second annual International Religious Freedom Summit.

The Nigerian Catholic Bishop added, “The Pentecost attack was an act of genocide.”

The Catholic Church leader who pledged to “spend his life seeking justice” for victims of Islamist terror said the June 5 atrocity is an “expression of a more than 200-year-old push for a caliphate first launched by Islamic jihadist Usman dan Fodio.”


This explains the “fervor of the violence targeting Nigeria’s Christians,” Bishop Arogundade said.

The Local Ordinary of Ondo Diocese further told ACN that, in his opinion, “the signs point to the Pentecost massacre having been carried out by militant Islamist Fulani herdsmen, though the Nigerian government has yet to formally identify the terrorists.”

“The government’s silence, compounded by the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari is himself a Fulani, gives rise to concerns of complacency, if not complicity,” Bishop Arogundade said.

He further said that the Islamists' increasingly bold and extreme acts of violence are intended “to make territorial gains”.

The plight of Nigeria’s Christians, the Catholic Church leader continued, “shows the contrast between Christianity – which, in all its forms and expressions, values life as the ultimate, highest good – and radical militant Islam, which pursues as its highest good Islamist ideology, such as the establishment of the caliphate to cover the entire nation, no matter the cost to human life and dignity.”

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He said he rejects the theory that the attack on the church in Episcopal See on Pentecost Sunday was somehow driven by climate change and the competition with Christian farmers for arable land. 

Such theory, Bishop Arogundade said, “is an insult to the victims”.

Addressing participants at the second annual International Religious Freedom Summit, Bishop Arogundade said, “The smell of blood in the church is still fresh.” 

The Bishop of Ondo Diocese appealed to the U.S. to help in the search for justice and protection of Christians in Nigeria.

Former U.S. Congressman, Frank Wolf, called for the appointment of a special envoy for Nigeria or the Lake Chad Region, as well as a Congressional Caucus for Nigeria, with lawmakers especially focused on the needs of the country and region. 


Such an envoy, Mr. Wolf said, would need to have real clout, with access to the State Department and an ability to tap the power of the UN and other institutions. 

“Barring significant action, Nigeria risks becoming a terror state or a failed state,” he added during the summit that was co-chaired by Ambassador Sam Brownback, the former U.S. Ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom, and Katrina Lantos Swett, former Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.