Catholics are hit with a global wave of violence during ‘Black April’

Philippine activists hold banners to mark International Human Rights Day in Manila Dec. 10, 2017. (CNS photo/Mark R. Cristino, EPA)Philippine activists hold banners to mark International Human Rights Day in Manila Dec. 10, 2017. (CNS photo/Mark R. Cristino, EPA)

April has proved a terrifically cruel month for Catholics around the world, particularly Catholic priests. Scores have died in a series of attacks and assassinations in Mexico, the Philippines and Nigeria. Catholics at prayer during Mass have been targeted in a number of attacks.

Four members of a Catholic family were killed in a militant attack in southern Pakistan on April 2, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo a priest was assassinated shortly after celebrating Mass on April 8. It was the latest attack on the Catholic Church in Congo, where the church has been sponsoring peaceful demonstrations to protest President Joseph Kabila's refusal to leave power.

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Sadly, May started off with yet another church attack that raises the specter of a potentially devastating round of sectarian reprisals in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic.

Central African Republic
The most recent deaths occurred on May 1. Tensions that have been building for months in the Central African Republic boiled over in the capital with an attack on the Our Lady of Fatima church that claimed 24 lives and wounded 170.

In April scores have died in a series of attacks and assassinations in Mexico, the Philippines and Nigeria. 

Serge Benda, the archdiocesan youth coordinator who was at the Mass, told the France24 TV network the attack had occurred after the Gospel reading, following an exchange of fire with police outside the church. He said that five assailants shot at the congregation with Kalashnikov rifles, throwing two grenades into the church, one of which killed Msgr. Albert Toungoumale-Baba close to the pulpit.

Outraged community members carried the body of the slain priest toward the president’s residence, demanding a response from the republic’s security forces. Local press report that the mob passed through a Muslim neighborhood, where a mosque was destroyed and two men were burned alive, before it reached the city center. The mob was dispersed by security forces before reaching the presidential residence.

Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga, the archbishop of Bangui, on May 3 urged calm and an end to retaliatory attacks. “Violence is not the solution to our problems,” the cardinal said.

“Behind these events, I ask myself questions: What is happening? Have there been manipulations, exploitation? Is there [a campaign] to divide the country? Is there a hidden agenda? Let us look for answers to these questions together.”

"Is there [a campaign] to divide the country? Is there a hidden agenda? Let us look for answers to these questions together.”

The church in Bangui has taken pains to depict the violence that has assailed the Central African Republic since 2012 as the result of political, not religious tension, hoping to avoid pitting the nation’s Christians and Muslims against each other. In his statement on the attack, the cardinal urged “heroes” to step forward to “stand together to say no to violence, no to barbarism, no to self-destruction.”

“This is why I appeal to all political, administrative, religious groups, without distinction, to condemn together what happened,” he said. “At the same time I say to all those who are believers that at the moment of trial we must rely on God, who gave us the peace of Christ. I appeal to all to avoid anger, hatred, revenge and reprisals.”

Kobine Layama, the country's chief imam, condemned the attack on Our Lady of Fatima as an attempt to disrupt “peace, social cohesion and coexistence.”

This is the second devastating attack on Our Lady of Fatima. A similar assault by Seleka militia in 2014 claimed 18 lives.

The church is located in the PK5 district of Bangui, a stronghold of the city’s remnant Muslim community; most of Bangui’s and the nation’s Muslims fled to Chad during a previous round of sectarian violence in 2014. The city has been wracked by violence in recent days as U.N. peacekeepers and the C.A.R. military attempted to neutralize armed groups in PK5. That effort resulted in at least 17 deaths, according to community members, who said those killed were unarmed residents of PK5. But U.N. officials charge they were remnant Seleka fighters who had regrouped into a criminal gang and self-defense force within PK5.

In 2013 the Seleka, attacking from the north, overran the capital and briefly seized control of the nation. The rampage that followed provoked the emergence of a counter force, the anti-Balaka, from among the nation’s Christian and traditional groups. The nation has never stabilized, enduring rounds of violence since the Seleka were driven out of power months later.

Nigeria
Across the continent in West Africa, the bishops of Nigeria urged the nation’s president to resign following a horrific attack on a church in Benue State in the “middle belt” region of central Nigeria that divides the mainly Muslim north from the predominantly Christian south.

“It is time for the president to choose the path of honor and consider stepping aside to save the nation from complete collapse,” the bishops wrote, demanding the resignation of President Muhammadu Buhari in a statement sent to the church news service Fides.

“It is time for the president to choose the path of honor and consider stepping aside to save the nation from complete collapse.”

Two priests and at least 19 parishioners were killed on April 24 at the St. Ignatius Ukpor-Mbalom church in the village of Mbalom. Most of the violence in recent years in Nigeria has been related to Islamist extremist groups like the notorious Boko Haram, but this church attack, which came at the beginning of early morning Mass, has been blamed on armed “pastoralists” who have been in conflict with villagers over grazing rights.

In a statement to Fides, which was released as the Nigerian bishops were conducting an ad limina visit to Rome on May 3, the bishops wrote: “These innocent souls met their untimely death at the hands of a wicked and inhuman gang of rampaging and murderous terrorists who have turned the vast lands of the Middle Belt and other parts of Nigeria into a massive graveyard.”

The bishops charge that Nigerian security forces did not respond to appeals for assistance as a threat from the heavily-armed pastoralists, who seek control over contested land to use for grazing, grew more intense. “How can the federal government stand back while its security agencies deliberately turn a blind eye to the cries and wails of helpless unarmed citizens who remain sitting ducks in their homes, farms, highways and now even in the holy places of worship?” the bishops asked.

One of the priests killed, the Rev. Joseph Gor, sought to alert authorities months ago to the increasing threat from the Fulani, nomadic pastoralists who are widespread throughout West Africa. On Jan. 3, he asked for help in message on Twitter: “We live in fear the Fulani are back in the area of Mbalom. They refuse to leave. They continue to pasture their flocks. We have no means of defending ourselves.”

These “desperate cries for security and help went unheeded by those who should have heard them,” Nigerian bishops complain, referring to the two slain priests. The slain priests “could have fled but true to their vocation they remained to continue to serve their people right unto death,” the bishops said.

Philippines
In the Philippines, a Catholic priest was gunned down on April 29 while blessing children just after celebrating Mass in Gattaran, Cagayan on Lozun. The motive for the crime is still unknown as the police investigation begins, but the Rev. Mark Ventura appeared to be a victim of a professional assassination, and he had been active defending Luzon’s indigenous community against mining interests on the island.

Archbishop Sergio Utleg of Tuguegarao has appealed to authorities for a speedy investigation into the killing. “We just lost a young priest, zealous and dedicated, one who smelled like his sheep, to an assassin’s bullet right after he said Mass and was baptizing children,” he said in a statement released on April 29. “We condemn in strongest terms this brutal and cowardly act.

“There have been too many murders already done with impunity in our country by assassins riding in tandem,” he said. “May this be the last.”

In a response to Father Ventura’s murder and the murder of a journalist the following day, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle called for church bells in the Archdiocese of Manila to toll at 8 p.m. each day in protest of the wave of killings across the Philippines. Thousands of people believed to be involved with drug sales or trafficking have been summarily executed by police and security forces, according to Human Rights Watch, since the election of President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016.

Cardinal Tagle said the tolling of the bells will “haunt the perpetrators of violence and killing to remember their victims, never to forget them,” reports ucanews.com.

“The bells beckon us to remember the dead...and to ask God to remember them,” the cardinal said.

Mexico
Authorities report the discovery on April 26 of the body of a priest who had been kidnapped in central Mexico. Prosecutors in Morelos state said a relative identified the body of the Rev. Moises Fabila Reyes, 83. Father Fabila Reyes apparently died of a heart attack.

He is the third priest killed in Mexico in a week. A total of two dozen priests have been killed in the country since the current president took office in 2012.

“In a few days, Mexico has experienced the worst public safety crises of its modern history. Not only are young people being disappeared and killed, the dimension of this barbarity has reached all levels of society and the church has had a ‘Black April,’” the Catholic Multimedia Center wrote in an article. “Three priests have died in violent circumstances, raising indignation and concern among bishops across the country.”

Father Fabila Reyes had been on vacation in the city of Cuernavaca when he was abducted on April 3. Family members paid a ransom of over $100,000, but Father Fabila Reyes apparently became ill and died while being held.

Just days before his body was discovered another priest was shot dead on the outskirts of Guadalajara, and another was stabbed to death outside Mexico City.

“It is time to take a hard look at our culture and our society, to ask ourselves how we lost respect for life, for all that is sacred,” Mexico’s bishops’ conference wrote in a statement following the most recent round of priest killings.

With reporting from CNS, Ucanews.com, Fides and AP

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Toby Gillis
2 weeks 5 days ago

Chickens coming home to roost? How many millions has the Roman church murdered in the pursuit of domination and power???

Tim Donovan
2 weeks 5 days ago

With respect, your comments clearly reveal your unwarranted hostility to the Catholic Church of which I am an imperfect member. It is unfortunately true that centuries ago, some Catholic leaders and individuals persecuted and killed some people who weren't Catholics, especially Jews. The Church also launched the Crusades to win back the Holy Land from Muslims who had conquered the territory. However, for many years, such Catholic leaders as St. John Paul apologized for the wrongs done by the Church and it's members . During World War II, Pope Plus made it clear that the Nazis were immoral, and wrote that Christians were "spiritual Semites." He also condemned Nazi ideology that one race was superior to another, as well as condemned the Nazi persecution of Jews and other people. Going back in history, during the Protestant Reformation ( which frankly had some valid concerns -both my sister-in-law and niece whom I love are Presbyterians) both Catholic rulers as well as rulers who had become Protestant fought wars in which, sadly, countless Protestants as well as Catholics were killed. Since Vatican II, the Catholic Church has engaged in ecumenical relations with people of various faiths: not only Protestants but Orthodox Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Pope Francis has clearly said that it is blasphemy to kill in the name of God. Despite some significant errors, both as a Church body and as individuals Catholics have done considerable to assist people in need. Simply consider and go to the website of Catholic Relief Services which on an international level assists people who are poor, hungry, and ill. There are numerous Catholic hospitals in our nation and throughout the world that proviðe. people who are sick with compassionate, practical medical care. I might point out that
Catholic institutions provide compassionate assistance to people regardless of their race, ethnic group, or religion. Finally, as a retired Special Education who instructed students with brain damage and physical , disabilities in a public school, I know that there are numerous Catholic schools that provide a quality education to children regardless of their faith. Also, the Church has schools, homes and other centers to educate and serve disabled children and adults, again, regardless of a person's religion or race. As imperfect as the Catholic Church is, it certainly in my opinion provides a huge amount of humanitarian work. I believe that it was the Nazis, who killed 11 million people including 6 million Jews, as well as communists including Stalin and Mao who were atheists who killed the most innocent people in a relatively short period of time. I think it's sad that you seem not merely complacent but even pleased by the murder of Catholic priests and lay men and women in the nation's mentioned in this article.

Toby Gillis
2 weeks 5 days ago

A couple points....I do admire all the charitable work your church does, and they should certainly keep it up
.There is neither warranted nor unwarranted hostility toward anyone, only a fact to which you agree.
Your "membership" is a man made tradition. There is One Church made up of all believers, there is nothing special about the Catholics or any other denomination. All denominational lines and differences are anathema to God. There is only one Truth.
Protestant reformation was and is mostly a failure since they did not go nearly far enough in removing the pagan practices of Rome.....Sunday worship, prayers to Saints, the false doctrine of Hell, infant baptism (water baptism of any kind PERIOD) etc. etc.
Protestants are merely the Harlots, the Daughters of the Whore of Babylon and Rome is simply doing it's best to bring them back into the fold.
I have nothing against any individual Catholic but woe be unto the leadership. But who knows perhaps God will forgive false Doctrine also? It just brings a chuckle when catholics whine and cry when things like this happen to them, when they have committed any and every sin possible upon other believers who dared to go against their dictates and power. Poor poor pitiful us.
I am not pleased when anyone anywhere dies but I am less pleased when lies are told from pulpits.

Tim Donovan
2 weeks 5 days ago

Thank you, Toby, for your reply. I appreciate it that you agree that the Church as well as individual Catholics do considerable charitable work to assist people regardless of their faith (or lack thereof). I also agree that God is very displeased by all the divisions in the Church. I might add that I have many friends, neighbors, and co-workers of various Protestant faiths . In fact, my sister-in-law Martha and niece Virginia are Presbyterians. I also have known and had friends or co-workers who were Muslims or Jews. I bring this up not because I necessarily agree with all of their beliefs, but merely to point out that I respect or love people of all faiths. As an aside, I also am a pen pal with a man, Hubert, who is serving a sentence of life in prison for a serious crime who is a devout Jehovah's Witness. From our years of correspondence, I'm convinced that he 's reformed his life. Again, I make this point to hopefully demonstrate that while I do believe that the Catholic Church is the Church founded by Jesus, I'm not so narrow-minded, as I know people of many faiths. Nor do I believe that all or even most Catholics go to heaven, nor that people of other faiths can't go to heaven. I must admit, Mr. Gillis, that I don't understand some of your beliefs. For instance, your belief that water baptism is a false belief. It's clear in the Bible that Jesus, our Savior, was baptized by John the Baptist. Also, Jesus told His Apostles to baptize all nations in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Also, Jesus spoke about the existence of hell. We Catholics don't pray to saints in the same sense that we pray to God. First, we worship God, and simply give honor to the saints. When we pray to a saint, we're asking him or her to intercede for us, and ask God to answer our prayers. Finally, I'm. glad that you're not "pleased" when anyone anywhere dies (neither am I, including an atheist-God created us all). However, I believe that Protestants also did more than their share of killing innocent people (not merely Catholics). After all, how many Native Americans were deliberately killed by white men both before we gained our independence from Britain and in the century of more after our nation was founded? And I believe it's accurate to say that, since Catholics were a small minority in the 19th century, that it was more often Protestants who killed and stole the land from Native Americans. Mr. Gillis, thank you again for your time. I'd be happy to continue to discuss our respective beliefs. Take care.

Toby Gillis
2 weeks 5 days ago

I'll be more than happy to discuss beliefs, both your's and mine but can't today. Check back tomorrow midday or when you have time. I'll be back.

Toby Gillis
2 weeks 4 days ago

All quotes KJV, capitals just for emphasis.
Hell. We are all reading a translation and there are 4 words translated as hell in KJV but they actually have different connotations when the original words and the context of who is speaking and who is being spoken to are taken into account. All of them mean "the grave" (except Gehenna) but with a few minor cultural differences. In Hebrew, Sheol, (31 times) is the place of ALL the dead BOTH good and bad,...Hades, (10 times) the abode of the Greek god of death, again where ALL the dead went. Tartarus, (1 time) a deeper part of the kingdom of Hades. Only the Greeks had the idea of separate places (still within Hades) where some were punished but some were not. Gehenna, (12 times) the place of burning, the trash dump which incidentally was also the place where the bodies of those who had been stoned to death for violation of Jewish law were taken and burned. When Jesus spoke about hell the word is Gehenna so He was telling them in an example they would understand that unbelievers would be cast into the fire and consumed by it, not burn forever. And finally the word hell itself is from an Olde English/German/Norse word that mean a hole where the dead are covered up...THE GRAVE. So it isn't that hell isn't in the Bible but that until the 3rd century A.D. no one in any religion taught it the way it has been taught for 1700 years, or since the introduction of this lie into mainstream Christianity by formerly pagan "early church fathers". The idea did not exist. I am not arguing that "hell" is not in the Bible, it is the doctrine that isn't there. The doctrine of hell taught by almost every church on the planet is pagan mythology. Take it back to the first command of God, and the first lie in the garden. Gen. 2:16,17 The Command--- And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof THOU SHALT SURELY DIE.
Gen. 3:4 The Lie---And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye SHALL NOT SURELY DIE
So who is lying? And why is this lie still believed? IF one believes that an unsaved soul is committed to an eternal fire to be punished forever and ever then Satan is who one believes and God must be the liar. If hell as taught is a real place then why weren't Adam, Eve, Cain, or any Old Testament sinners warned of it? There is no place in the Hebrew Bible (OT) that teaches any kind of punishment after death...It just ain't there!

To contradict the doctrine of an everlasting, eternally burning fire into which the lost are cast, we must also address the false idea of the "immortal soul" it isn't immortal, only God is immortal. If the soul is already immortal why must we; lay hold of eternal life....or be be called to it?
1Tim. 6:12-16--- Fight the good fight of faith, LAY HOLD on eternal life, whereunto thou ART ALSO CALLED, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. I give thee charge in the sight of God, WHO QUICKENETH ALL THINGS, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of Lords;
WHO ONLY HATH IMMORTALITY, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.

Why must we seek it or put it on?
Rom.2:7 . To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:
Rom.15:53-57 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
.But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

What is a soul? The soul is not a separate entity of the man, it IS the man. Gen 2:7-And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man BECAME a living soul". Can we agree that God is logical? If so then logically speaking the body without the breath/spirit of life is no longer a living soul. What happens to a soul that sins? Ezek 18:4- Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it SHALL DIE. What happens at death? Ecc. 12:6,7 Or ever the silver cord be loosed*, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. (*Hebraisms for death)
Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it....The spirit God gave...not any mention of a soul returning to God.
Rom. 6:16-23- Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of SIN UNTO DEATH (not hell), or of obedience unto righteousness?
But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.
For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.
What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is DEATH.
BUT NOW being made free from sin, (by the finished work of the Cross) and become servants to God, (by belief in the Gospel) ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. (everlasting life is only through these things)
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Eternal life is ONLY a GIFT from God, why would He give this gift to unsaved sinners? "Here is your gift from Me, take it and go and burn forever"... Not my God or yours.
The wages of sin is DEATH....NOT eternal life in an everlasting fire. The teaching of immortal souls is a pagan concept of the Greek philosopher Plato and made it's way into the doctrines of men ( not the Bible) through the writings of the "early church fathers" such as Athenagoras and Tertullian both of whom wrote "doctrine" but as recent converts from paganism to Christianity they were well studied in the pagan writings and beliefs of Plato and others, and even say as much in their writings. """For some things are known even by nature: the immortality of the soul, for instance, is held by many; the knowledge of our God is possessed by all. I may use, therefore, the opinion of a Plato, when he declares, ‘Every soul is immortal’ ” (Tertullian, On the Resurrection of the Flesh). They, or should I say Because of them, and others, the Roman church fell into the trap that some aspects of Greek mythology were compatible with this "new" religion.

What does God say will happen to the wicked, and even Satan himself? Satan does not burn forever, contrary to popular false teaching.
Satan first
Ezek.28:18,19 --Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee.
All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more.
And now the wicked unsaved unbelievers.
Mal:4:1-3 For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
But unto you that fear my name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.
And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts.

To think that hell as taught exists is to preclude Judgement and the resurrection unto that judgement. Would God bring sinners out of a place of fire just to judge them and throw them back in? No, they sleep in the grave until they are raised and then and only then are they burnt up and destroyed.

The wicked do not burn forever and the Bible never says they will, they are burnt up as stubble in a field and when the deed is accomplished or the fuel is gone, out goes the fire. The only thing that even comes close to being hell is the lake of fire which does not last forever, rather it devours those cast into it, including Satan as well as all unbelievers so that sin as well as death and the grave is once and for all removed.

arthur mccaffrey
2 weeks 5 days ago

Hey Toby Gillis--you ought to read Douglas Murray's book "The Stange Death of Europe"--it is full of stories about people like you--I call you reverse colonialists--because our ancestors did bad things then all the descendants must suffer. Western Europe is full of people like you, letting themselves be overrun with immigration, because they feel so guilty about how these poor foreigners were colonialised during the British Empire days, or how native people were exploited by American pioneers, or how many suffered during the Inquisition..... your smug comeuppance attitude is full of revenge for the "sins" of your forebears.....all I can say to you is "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone....."

Toby Gillis
2 weeks 4 days ago

Your comment makes no sense. I never said anything was deserved because of the past, just pointing out that your church is not innocent. The church murdered people and people murder people of the church. People murder people NOT of the church......These things are the way the wind blows and there is no great increase of Catholics being targeted. But, just as in the case of the House Chaplain, it MUST be discrimination....NO it isn't, get off the pity pot.

Toby Gillis
2 weeks 4 days ago

The more I read your words the more ridiculous they become. Me, compared to those "letting themselves be overrun with immigration, because they feel so guilty"! Not on your life. No white guilt here brother...none.

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