“We sleep with one eye open”, Catechist in Nigeria Says after Church Shooting

Catechist Emmanuel Joseph. Credit: ACN

A Catechist at St. Moses Catholic Church, one of the 17 outstations of St. Augustine’s Parish of Kaduna Archdiocese in Nigeria who survived a militant attack at the Church in June has recounted the traumatic experience, noting that all survivors of the attack are living in the constant fear of being attacked again.

In an interview with Catholic Pontifical and charity foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International, Catechist Emmanuel Joseph said that the June 19 attack on Roboh village, Kajuru Local Government Area (LGA), in Southern Kaduna State had left Christians in the region “weak and tired”.

"With all that has been happening in the state, including constant attacks on the Christian faithful in the Roboh community, we are weak and tired, and we are beginning to be scared too. We are only focused on how to stay alive, looking upon God for safety in the belief that He will fight back for us,” Catechist Emmanuel is quoted as saying in the Thursday, August 4 ACN report.

He told the Catholic charity, “Kaduna state has not been peaceful since the introduction of Sharia law in 2000. There has been a series of attacks, especially on Catholic priests, Catholic worshippers, and Christians in general, and the government is doing nothing to help. Due to Fulani terrorist attacks, we sleep with one eye open.”

Suspected armed Fulani herdsmen reportedly attacked St. Moses Catholic Church and Maranatha Baptist Church in Kaduna, killing four people and taking 36 others hostage. Of the four that died, three were worshippers at the Catholic Church that is part of St. Augustine’s Parish.


Catechist Emmanuel who was in the Church on the fateful day estimated that there were more than 40 armed men who attacked worshippers that morning.

He recounted the events of that morning in the interview with the Pontifical charity foundation, saying, “Mass had just started when we heard guns firing. Suddenly, one of our young men came running towards the church building, shouting ‘Run! Run! They are coming!’. Parishioners started running everywhere, chairs were broken in the process, and some were hurt trying to get away. The church was crowded and there was nowhere to run to, so I stood there, confused as to what to do next.”

He recalled the armed men approaching the church compound and shooting three members who had left the church. Those shot were a married couple, who left seven children behind, and a young man, who left a wife and three children.

According to the Catechist, the attack lasted about 90 minutes.

He recounted having been the last person to leave the church, after making sure that most of the parishioners were safe.

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“What shocked me the most was that there was no security at the scene; and even after the incident, security personnel were there for less than half an hour,” he told ACN.

Of the 36 worshippers that were kidnapped at the Baptist church, three were released to relay the militants’ demand of a 100 million naira (approximately US$240,000.00) ransom.

The Catechist recounted not having heard anything of the kidnapped worshippers, and added, “Their lives are in the hands of God, as there has been no attempt to bring them back.”

Catechist Emmanuel said that the Parish had already embarked on the process of caring for victims of the attacks, including those who had been left to nurse wounds in hospitals and the families of the deceased.

“We visit the wounded and encourage them not to give up, and we pray with them as well. We offer Masses for the abducted parishioners, asking God to perform a miracle and bring them back safely; we also pray for the departed souls, that they may rest in peace,” the Catechist said.


He added, “Our community has received no outside help at all; we have been managing and trying to survive on our own. The Fulani attackers also rendered some of the parishioners jobless, because they looted some shops. The parishioners who owned those shops are traumatized, and still in shock, as running them was how they used to feed and take care of their families.”

The Nigerian Catechist said that despite fearing for his own life, he will continue spreading the Gospel of Jesus in the region that is experiencing increasing Islamist attacks.

“To be honest, even I am scared. Fear has taken the best out of us. But I will not stop preaching the Gospel, I will not stop winning souls for Christ, because that is my calling,” he told ACN.

Catechist Emmanuel added, “I will keep on encouraging my parishioners to keep their faith alive, visiting them in their homes, sharing the word of God and praying with them. By doing so, I believe they will be encouraged.”

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.