The celebration of Pentecost Sunday turned bloody and violent as a church in Nigeria was attacked by a group of gunmen and left at least 50 people dead.
According to the Associated Press, the gunmen open-fired at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church's worshippers before detonating explosives while a Mass was ongoing. The gunmen also abducted the priest. The church, located in Owo of Nigeria's Ondo State, was filled with a pool of blood from the dead who were mostly children.
Nigeria's Christians Attacked Again
CBN News said the incident was immediately announced on Twitter by Ondo Governor Rotimi Akeredolu who regarded the incident as an unprovoked, demonic attack. Akeredolu expressed grief over the massacre of the innocent. The governor said the incident made Pentecost a "black Sunday" because the attackers, who he called "enemies of the people," have destroyed the peace and tranquility of Owo. He shared that it is a personal loss for it is an attack on his beloved state.
"The vile & satanic attack is a calculated assault on the peace-loving people of Owo Kingdom who have enjoyed relative peace over the years," Akeredolu said.
"We shall commit every available resource to hunt down these assailants and make them pay. We shall never bow to the machinations of heartless elements in our resolves to rid our state of criminals," he added.
The governor also disclosed that he has currently received briefs on the incident from the state's security agencies' heads and stressed that the unidentified assailants will be hunted down to pay for their crimes. He also said that he has already spoken to Ondo Bishop Jude Arogundade, while he was on his way to the church. He revealed shortening his party's national assignment in Abuja so he could immediately attend on the matter in Owo.
In addition, the governor expressed condolences to the families of the victims and the Catholic Church. He also urged the public to remain calm yet vigilant and reminded them not to take the law into their hands. He announced that security operatives have already been deployed in the area to monitor the security and restore normalcy to the state.
Nigeria's Prolonged Security Issues
International Christian Concern explained that Sunday's attack on Christians does not normally happen in Nigeria's southern part where Owo is located. Violence is commonly experienced in northern Nigeria where Muslims are a majority.
Though authorities have not released an official count of the death toll, various videos uploaded in social media have shown many church worshippers lying in the pool of blood while wailing could be heard in the background.
But local doctors disclosed to Reuters, as per Vatican News, that a minimum of 50 people were killed by the gunmen. Dozens of injured were taken to hospitals in Owo-like the Federal Medical Centre--whose doctors have announced in social media pleas for blood donation.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari similarly condemned the incident as an act of evil and wicked people, which he said "will never overcome light." Buhari, who vowed to end the country's security crisis during his candidacy, said he suspected "friends from the nether region" were behind the massacre.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis expressed unity with the victims of the massacre and their families who he said he entrusts to God. The pontiff said he prays that God will send them His Spirit to console them, especially at a time the church celebrates Pentecost.
Security issues abound across Nigeria. A source who spoke to Christianity Daily four days before the incident explained that thousands are killed, raped, and kidnapped for ransom in their own lands in southern Nigeria. He said these happen daily because Muslims have invaded their lands. While many terrorist organizations--such as Boko Haram and ISIS West Africa--could be found in the country's northern region.
Asked how Christians like him keep themselves safe in the face of these threats, he said "we keep safe only by the grace of God."
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