Murder of Two Priests Sparks Protests in Nigeria

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by David Nussman  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  May 16, 2018   

Bishops plan protest on May 22, after funeral for two priests killed by Muslim militants

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MAKURDI, Nigeria (ChurchMilitant.com) - Catholics in Nigeria are protesting following the killing of two priests at the hands of Islamic militants.

Two Catholic priests — Fr. Joseph Gor and Fr. Felix Tyolaha — were killed during a violent attack in Nigeria's Benue State that left about 17 dead. The April 24 attack was perpetrated by members of the Fulani ethnic group, a mostly-Muslim group, some of whom are traditionally semi-nomadic. The two priests were killed in the church during an early morning Mass, as were many of the laity in attendance.

The Fulani have been attacking Christian farmers in central Nigeria more frequently in recent months. According to Crux, over 100 people have been killed in Fulani attacks this year. On Wednesday, there were attacks by Fulani militants on two villages in Kogi State that left 10 dead.

Nigeria's bishops are now planning a mass protest in the Benue State's capital of Makurdi on May 22. The protest will take place after the funeral Mass and Christian burial of the two murdered priests.

Catholics in Nigeria were outraged by the deaths of Fr. Gor and Fr. Tyolaha. In the wake of the April 24 attack, the Nigerian bishops even called for the nation's president, Muhammadu Buhari, to resign. President Buhari, the bishops argue, is failing to protect Christians in Nigeria from attacks by Fulani militants.

Some have pointed out President Buhari is of Fulani descent, born from the same ethnic group as those perpetrating the violence.

In a statement from April 26, the country's Catholic bishops said, "Whether this failure is due to inability to perform or lack of political will, it is time for him [Buhari] to choose the path of honour and consider stepping aside to save the nation from total collapse."

The April 26 communique also stated: 

We have received with deep shock, sorrow and utter horror, the gruesome, grisly and dastardly murder of two Catholic priests along with fifteen of their parishioners in the early hours of the morning of Tuesday 24 April 2018. These innocent souls met their untimely death in the hands of a wicked and inhuman gang of the rampaging and murderous terrorists, who have turned the vast lands of the Middle belt and other parts of Nigeria into a massive graveyard.

The Nigerian bishops released this statement while they were in Rome "on official visit to the Holy Father and other agencies of administration of the Church."

There have already been some protests by Catholics in Nigeria, calling on the government to protect its people.

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The April 28 protest in Ondo State.

For instance, Catholic priests and seminarians gathered to protest in Akure, Ondo State on April 28.

They marched along a road, wore Roman cassocks and other black robes and held signs with messages such as "Love your neighbor and your enemy" and "Stop the killing of Christians; you can't defend God."

The latter motto presumably means that those who fail to defend Christians will have to answer to God.

Church Militant communicated with a priest from Nigeria, who explained, "The citizens here in Nigeria have been wondering why the international community has remained silent over the massacre of the Nigerian citizens."

"Our Muslim brethren won't allow us [to] be," he continued. "For many, many years they have been holding us in bondage, graduating from Boko Haram terrorist group to Fulani herdsmen terrorist group."

Boko Haram is another Islamic group that has caused death and destruction in Nigeria. It is widely recognized as an Islamic terrorist organization, and many world powers have offered aid to Nigeria in the fight against Boko Haram.

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