Sunday, April 29, 2018 8:55 pm
Churches from different denominations under the umbrella body of Christian Association Nigeria (CAN) on Sunday in Nigeria on Sunday embarked on peaceful protest against the incessant killings by suspected herdsmen in the country.
CAN President, Rev. Olasupo Ayokunle, had in a statement on April 25 urged Christians to hold peaceful protests within their church premises.
In Ibadan, the Chairman of CAN in Oyo State, Pastor Benjamin Akanmu, said that members had been directed to stage the protest in compliance with the directives by the national body.
Akanmu said that the protest was limited to the vicinity of the churches in order to prevent it from being hijacked by hoodlums.
Rev. Dr Samuel Wojuola, the Senior Pastor of Bodij-Ashi Baptist Church, Ibadan, during the rally by the church urged government to address the security challenges in the country.
Wojuola said that the incessant killings must be halted to promote peaceful coexistence.
According to him, the church joined the protest to show disapproval for the unending bloodshed in the country.
Also, many churches in Makurdi on Sunday complied with the directive of CAN.
Christian faithful wore black and white attires as a mark of mourning for the murdered catholic priests and parishioners of St Ignatius Church, Mbalom, Gwer East Local Government Area.
Two Catholic priests, Rev. Father Joseph Gor and Rev. Father Felix Tyolaha, as well as 16 other worshippers were killed at the 5 a.m. mass of the church on April 24.
A correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), who went round some churches in Makurdi, reports that most worshippers, regardless of denomination, wore black and white dresses to church.
The worshippers held peaceful protests within their churches to denounce the acts of barbarism and gruesome killings and other attacks on innocent citizens.
They held placards with inscriptions such as ” Enough of the killings”, “We want peace in our state”, “No more bloodshed”, “Lord, what have we done to deserve this?’’ among others.
At the NKST church in Iyortyer, Makurdi, the worshippers carrying placards and marching peacefully within the premises of the worship house.
Speaking to newsmen, Pastor Frederick Ikyaan of NKST Church at High Level area of the metropolis, said the Christian community was in mourning
“We are saddened by these killings and we want the world to know our displeasure over these acts,’’ he said.
He said that the dress code was reminiscent of the tradition of the church in wearing sack clothes when faced with such calamities.
“In the olden days, Christians wore sack clothes when confronted with calamities of monstrous nature but since we no longer have such clothes, we wear black and white to show our grief and anguish.
“Our concern is to express our displeasure and feelings to the immediate society, our leaders in Nigeria and President Buhari, without mincing words that we are offended by the ongoing killings in the state and the country,’’ he said.
He said that with the killing of the priests and worshippers, it was very clear that the invaders were not after the green vegetation but the soul of the state.
The cleric said that the killing of the priests had further deepened their faith and beliefs system, adding that no amount of intimidation would stop them from practising their faith.
He said that the priests and faithful killed had become martyrs of the herdsmen invasion in Benue, adding that they were the seeds sown by the church.
Also speaking, the Associate Pastor of NKST Church, Iortyer, Rev. Terwugwa Akaawude, appealed to the Federal Government to protect lives and property of the citizens.
On his part, Rev. Father Patrick Odeh of St. Juliana Catholic Mission, Bebe, High Level, accused Nigerian politicians of playing games with human lives.
Odeh said politicians were bereft of conscience in handling such sensitive matters as the killings, adding that the death of the two priests had united the church and made it stronger.
The cleric, who said the priests and worshippers died in active service, described them as ” gallant soldiers who never lost their faith.’’
He said they would be rewarded in eternity by God.
A combined team of security operatives were seen patrolling the state capital while the church services were ongoing.
In Lagos, Pastor John West of Zion the City of our God Ministry, on Sunday urged Nigerians to embrace peace, to enhance development of the country.
West spoke when he led some Christians to embark on a peaceful protest called by the national arm of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) over the recent killings in some parts of the country.
The pastor coordinated the peaceful protest by some Christians at Ikoyi and Obalende axis of Lagos, which is also to call for the release of Leah Shuaibu a student of Government Girls Science and Technical College (GGSTC) in Dapchi, and the remaining abducted Chibok girls.
He said that no meaningful development could take place in any part of the federation that was devoid of peace.
The cleric advised Nigerians to embrace dialogue in settling issues, even when they felt aggrieved, calling for cooperation to save the nation from further crisis.
“All we want is peace, we have been living and cohabiting with Muslims, I don’t think that the perpetrators of these crimes are Muslims because Islam is a religion of peace.
“It is necessary that we embrace peace in our various communities, both individually and collectively, and be our brothers’ keepers. We should work as a team so that the nation does not suffer.
“The situation in Nigeria calls for our collective concern and we must work with a high sense of tolerance, to ensure that we all make good progress,’’ he said.
West said that Nigeria, with its huge potential, could only achieve greatness when the citizens imbibe the virtues of tolerance, forgiveness, peace and unity.
He called on Nigerians to intensify their prayers, especially in the face of the many daunting challenges currently bedevilling the nation, especially in Benue State.
The Holy Messiah Cherubim and Seraphim Church, Foursquare, Mountain of Fire, Deeper Life Church and some other Pentecostal Churches within the axis participated in the peaceful protest.
The members carried placards with various inscriptions calling for peace, an end to killings and the release of Leah Shuaib and the remaining Chibok girls abducted by insurgents.
In an interview with NAN on their level of participation, the Bishop of Lagos North, Methodist Church, Bishop Olu Akinola, said that the church did not organise any protest, but was praying for Nigeria.
“We did not organise any protest, what Nigeria needs is prayers; we have prayed for the nation and we advise every Nigerian to do so,’’ he said.
Also, the CAN, Kano State Chapter, has decided to embark on intense prayers to stop the spate of killings across the country.
Rev Adeolu Samuel, the Chairman of the state chapter of the association, stated this at a news conference on Sunday in Kano.
He explained that there was need for the Federal Government to declare the killers as terrorists and rise against them, while the military should also confront them as such.
The CAN president also appealed to the Federal Government to go extra miles in freeing Leah Sharibu and the other abducted Chibok Girls by the terrorists.
According to Samuel, CAN demands that the government look out for the sponsors of such killings and bring them to justice.
The association, however, commended the Kano Emirate and the state government for ensuring that the state was peaceful and safe for all to live in and worship.