Christian Leaders in Nigeria Pray for Better Government after Murder of Catholic Priest

Late Rev. Fr. John Cheitnum, Chairman of CAN in Jema’a Local Government Area, Kaduna State; and the Coordinating Chairman of the body for Southern Kaduna. Credit: CAN

The leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has condemned the failure of the Nigerian authorities to bring religious extremists targeting innocent Christians to book, and prayed for a government that does not treat criminals in the country “with kid gloves”.

In their Thursday, July 21 statement condemning the murder of Fr. John Mark Cheitnum who served as the Chairman of CAN in the Jama’a Local Government Area (LGA) in Southern Kaduna State, the Christian leaders decry the laxity of the Nigerian government concerning insecurity in the West African country.

Officials of the Christian entity that includes representatives of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) express their sympathy with people close to Fr. John Mark, saying, “CAN commiserates with the immediate family of the slain Cheitnum, the Chancellor of the Diocese, Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Okolo, the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria and pray for divine consolation and comfort.”

“It is our prayers that never again will Nigeria be governed by a government that will be treating criminals with kid gloves,” they add.

In their July 21 statement, the CAN leaders call on the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, to ensure that those behind the murder of Fr. John Mark who also served as the Director of Communications in Kafanchan Diocese, are apprehended and prosecuted.


“The leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria has condemned in strong terms the gruesome murder of Rev. Fr. John Mark Cheitnum four days after his abduction and called on President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that the masterminds are arrested and prosecuted,” they say.

The Catholic Diocese of Kafanchan announced the “gruesome murder” of Fr. John Mark Mark Cheitnum who was kidnapped on July 15 alongside Fr. Denatus Cleopas, the latter having safely escaped from his captors.

In a Tuesday, July 19 statement that was shared with ACI Africa, the Chancellor of the Nigerian Diocese said, “it is with a deep sense of sorrow and pains that the Bishop, Clergy, Religious and Laity of the Diocese of Kafanchan announce the gruesome murder of Very Rev. Fr. John Mark Cheitnum.”

The Chancellor of the Nigerian Diocese said that Fr. John Mark who was abducted from the rectory of Christ the King Parish Yadin Garu, Lere L.G.A of Kaduna State, was brutally killed by his abductors on the same day of his abduction. 

The body of Fr. John Mark was said to have been discovered already decomposing on Tuesday July 19.

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In their July 21 statement, representatives of Christian leaders in Nigeria describe the murder of Fr. John Mark as “deliberately provocative”.

“To say the least, this is cruel, inhuman, deliberately provocative, barbarism and condemnable,” they say, and regret the fact that Nigerians “have a government that has failed to protect the lives and property of citizens and yet it will not ensure that these terrorists pay a heavy price for their evil actions.”

“Ours is a government that lacks political will to put these criminals where they rightly (belong). Instead, they are being recycled in the pretext of de-radicalizing programme,” CAN officials say.

They also recall “with sadness and a sense of despair” how terrorists murdered Lawan Andimi, the chairman of CAN in Michika, Adamawa State, and say, “Till today, no one has been brought to justice for his gruesome murder. Instead, many Christians, including the clerics, are being abducted and killed while our security agencies look helpless.”

CAN officials say that the situation in Nigeria “is unprecedented anywhere in the world”.


“We don’t know when an end will come to these wicked acts and to worsen the situation, the same government that cannot protect us has failed to establish state police to compliment the obviously overstretched Federal Police. This is why many well-meaning Nigerians, including some governors, are calling for self-defense to reduce the menace of insecurity challenges,” they said in their July 21 statement.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.