Loading...
Loading...
Click here if you don’t see subscription options
A woman reacts during a protest against violence in Abuja, Nigeria, Aug. 15, 2020. (OSV News photo/Afolabi Sotunde, Reuters)

(OSV News) -- In an endless cycle of violence against Christians in Nigeria, seminarian Na’Aman Danlami Stephen of the Diocese of Kafanchan was burned to death on Sept. 7 when a terrorist group called Fulani herdsmen attacked the rectory at St. Raphael Church in Fadan Kamantan.

Bishop Julius Kundi of Kafanchan told the Catholic agency Aid to the Church in Need that the parish priest, Father Emmanuel Okolo, and the assistant priest were able to escape the fire at the rectory, while the 25-year-old seminarian died in the attack.

Reactions to the killing have been pouring in on the official Facebook page of the diocese.

Doreen Yenlat said: “May God Almighty grant you eternal rest, to your killers, peace of mind shall be far away from them until they turn away from their evil deeds.”

Yachat Joseph asked Christ to support Christians in his land: “Fight this battle for us Jesus Christ.” And Agatha Stephen said simply: “May your soul find rest with your Creator.”

“It is very sad that killings and this type of evil are still going on.”

Bishops meeting for their 2023 plenary in the capital city of Abuja celebrated Mass Sept. 10 in memory of the seminarian.

“We offer this Mass for the happy repose of Na’Aman Danlami Stephen, the seminarian who was killed two days ago when bandits attacked and burnt the rectory in (Fadan) Kamantan. ... We pray also for all those who have suffered similar fate and for peace in Nigeria,” said Father Michael Banjo, deputy secretary-general of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria.

In his homily, Bishop Kundi thanked his fellow bishops for their solidarity and prayers “during this sad and dark moment in the diocese.”

The Rev. John Hayab, who is the cleric of the Nigerian Baptist Convention and is involved in the Kaduna state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, condemned the attack on the parish, saying: “It is very sad that killings and this type of evil are still going on.”

He was just “sleeping at night in the peace of Christ,” Father Stan Chu Ilo said about the seminarian. The priest is a research professor of African Christianity at the Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology at DePaul University in Chicago.

Speaking on the Pan-African Catholic Theology and Pastoral Network, Father Ilo said the killing of the seminarian was “one death too many in my homeland Nigeria where the blood of the innocent continues to be shed, where so many people are being killed, many Christian churches are being burnt down, many Christians are attacked in their places of worship.”

“My heart goes out to the Diocese of Kafanchan and the family of Na’Aman,” he added.

The latest killing is just one in a long list of attacks that have targeted churches and Christians in Africa’s most populous nation, and Kafanchan in particular has been hit hard by the kidnapping of clergy, seminarians and other Christians.

In a recent act of violence, Father Jeremiah Yakubu, of Holy Trinity Parish in Karku, was kidnapped on the feast of Corpus Christi, June 11, but he was released the next day.

The latest killing is just one in a long list of attacks that have targeted churches and Christians in Africa’s most populous nation, and Kafanchan in particular has been hit hard by the kidnapping of clergy, seminarians and other Christians.

According to a January report by the research organization SB Morgen Intelligence, not fewer than 39 Catholic priests were killed by gunmen in 2022, while 30 others were abducted. The report also showed that 145 attacks on Catholic priests were recorded within the same period.

Meanwhile, an April 10 report by Intersociety said that more than 50,000 Christians have been killed in Nigeria over the last 14 years.

Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto in northern Nigeria told OSV News that his own diocese “has lost one seminarian, one priest and two others were kidnapped. This ordeal has been ongoing for almost 10 years running,” he emphasized.

“Nigeria has been a difficult place for its citizens after years and years of misrule and outright banditry at the highest levels as those in power have turned governance into a purely criminal enterprise by the mindless looting of the treasury by successive governments,” Bishop Kukah said.

“The last administration was the worst in our history, combining nepotism, policies of exclusion and the undue favoritism of the northern Muslim elite. The last president created a conducive environment for the spread of extremist Islamic groups who saw his stance on Islam as giving a signal to them. Thus, it was merely a question of strategies for Islamic supremacy,” he said.

He explained that the last president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, who finished his term this May, “inherited this situation” and “worsened it.”

“All the security chiefs were Muslims, he removed a sitting Supreme Court justice who was a Christian and appointed a Muslim, the minister for Internal Affairs, the heads of Immigration and Customs charged with protecting our borders were all Muslilms! So, if you ask how effective the security forces were, under a Muslim leadership, fighting islamic extremist groups, I do not know what you will make of that, but these facts should make you have your conclusions,” Bishop Kukah wrote in an e-mail exchange with OSV News.

“The new president appointed new security chiefs, and we have seen a great departure from the past,” Bishop Kukah said of President Bola Tinubu. “We do not know whether out of frustration with the loss of power, these groups will become more desperate, but we believe we have a fair chance that things might change.”

Meanwhile, Father Ilo told OSV News that “these militants who are pursuing an asymmetrical warfare against their own people and against the state are the collateral damage of our politics.”

“We have turned our young people into angry men because we have not given them jobs, education, skills, and moral rectitude. So, rather than being in schools, factories, and offices or farms, they are living in bushes like wild animals and filled with so much anger, hatred, and bitterness that their lives mean nothing to them nor do the lives of fellow citizens mean anything to them,” he said.

“I lay the blame squarely on our failed leaders,” he emphasized.

We don’t have comments turned on everywhere anymore. We have recently relaunched the commenting experience at America and are aiming for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation by opening comments on a select number of articles each day.

But we still want your feedback. You can join the conversation about this article with us in social media on Twitter or Facebook, or in one of our Facebook discussion groups for various topics.

Or send us feedback on this article with one of the options below:

We welcome and read all letters to the editor but, due to the volume received, cannot guarantee a response.

In order to be considered for publication, letters should be brief (around 200 words or less) and include the author’s name and geographic location. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

We open comments only on select articles so that we can provide a focused and well-moderated discussion on interesting topics. If you think this article provides the opportunity for such a discussion, please let us know what you'd like to talk about, or what interesting question you think readers might want to respond to.

If we decide to open comments on this article, we will email you to let you know.

If you have a message for the author, we will do our best to pass it along. Note that if the article is from a wire service such as Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, or the Associated Press, we will not have direct contact information for the author. We cannot guarantee a response from any author.

We welcome any information that will help us improve the factual accuracy of this piece. Thank you.

Please consult our Contact Us page for other options to reach us.

City and state/province, or if outside Canada or the U.S., city and country. 
When you click submit, this article page will reload. You should see a message at the top of the reloaded page confirming that your feedback has been received.

The latest from america

A Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, by Father Terrance Klein
Terrance KleinApril 17, 2024
A student works in his "Writing Our Catholic Faith" handwriting book during a homeschool lesson July 29, 2020. (CNS photo/Karen Bonar, The Register)
Legally, the students at St. John Bosco are considered homeschooled. But their in-person school days, during which the students wear uniforms, are much like those at any other small school.
Laura LokerApril 17, 2024
In a speech at his weekly general audience, Pope Francis said that the cardinal virtue of temperance “lets one enjoy the goods of life better.”
Pope FrancisApril 17, 2024
Organizers of the archdiocese‘s restructuring process have pointed out that there are far more seats available in the pews in the city than people attending Mass, and there are more funerals than baptisms.