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May 26, 2018

The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan has described killing people in the places of worship, be it Churches or Mosques as an affront against God; noting: “after all that has happened, we have every right to be angry at the perpetrators and supporters of these murders. We have every reason to protest loud and clear against those whose duty it is to keep us safe”.
Cardinal Onaiyekan made this assertion in his homily at the burial ceremony of the 17 martyrs of St ignatius Parish, Ukpor-Mbalom, Gwer Local Government Area, Benue State; who were gruesomely murdered by Fulani herdsmen, during morning Mass, in the early hours of Tuesday, April 24, 2018. Among the victims of the dastardly act were: Rev. Frs. Joseph Gor and Felix Iyolaha.
Expressing concern about the vulnerability of places of worship to murderous attacks, the Metropolitan of Abuja Ecclesiastical Province declared: “To lay violent hands on an anointed priest of God is the worst form of blasphemy. But the same is true of the deliberate destruction of any human life.
The cardinal expressed bewilderment at the unexplainable and inexcusable spate of killings and destruction of human lives in different parts of the country, especially in Benue State; noting that there were many killings before April 24, and there have been many more after the date. Stressing the sanctity of human life, Cardinal Onaiyekan insisted that the atrocities cannot be allowed to continue in the country.
 The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja said: “Every human life is precious in the eyes of God, made in his own image and likeness.” He added: “One life killed is one life too many, no matter who the victim is. God is merciful. But theses atrocities surely stretch His patience to a point of danger for all of us. We cannot allow ourselves to be resigned to these regular atrocities.”
 Cardinal Onaiyekan also stressed the importance of forgiveness as demanded by the Christian faith. Noting that Jesus asked “us to forgive without limits; the cardinal declared: “We must also find in our hearts to forgive and pray for the wicked perpetrators of these atrocities, whoever they may be, wherever they may be coming come.”
While calling for prayers for the repose of the murdered faithful Cardinal Onaiyekan also urged for prayers for God to have mercy on the nation; those of us still alive but under constant danger and the government of the country and all the agents of government whose duty it is to secure life and property in the country.
The cardinal advocated for vigilance and be one another’s keeper noting that: “If murderers are allowed to continue to go on rampage, killing innocent law-abiding citizens, it will be difficult to stop anyone from seeking any available, appropriate and effective means of self-defense – as a last resort.”  Cardinal Onaiyekan also called for a radical overhaul of the country security apparatus and system to make it more effective and practically proactive. He concluded: “Our nation is in a state of emergency that calls for nothing less than a grand alliance of all persons of goodwill for justice and peace. Polarization along our lines of differences, especially ethnic and religious will only play into the hands of the cliques and groups that seem bent on throwing our nation into chaos, anarchy and doom”.
The burial ceremony was attended by a powerful delegation of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), led by its President, Archbishop Augustine Akubeze of Benin City,  the Chief mourner,  Bishop Wilfred Anagbe CMF, of Makurdi Diocese; representatives of the Holy Father, Pope Francis; the Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Oshibajo, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State and other top Government functionaries; Rev. Fathers and Rev. Sisters representatives of other Christian denominations in the country; dignitaries from all walks of life and a multitude of Catholic lay faithful. The ceremony took place at the Se Sugh Maria Pilgrimage Centre, Ayati, Benue State.

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