Nigerian archbishop cries at gravesite of slain priest as Catholics protest violence
Priests protest at the funeral of Father Vitus Borogo in the archdiocese of Kaduna on June 30, 2022. / Photos courtesy of the Catholic Archdiocese of Kaduna
Rome Newsroom, Jul 1, 2022 / 07:00 am (CNA).
Hundreds of Catholics protested violence against Christians in Nigeria at a funeral for a slain priest on Thursday.
“We have buried a number of priests back to back. People are tired, people are frustrated, people are depressed,” Father Daniel Kyom, a priest of the Archdiocese of Kaduna, told CNA on July 1.
“People are tired of the killing. A lot of people have died as a result of this terrorism, and a good part of those who have died are priests,” he said.
Kyom said that shortly before the funeral Mass on June 30 some priests decided to print out signs to carry in protest of the violence against Christians in northern Nigeria, where two churches were attacked last week.
More than 700 people, including about 100 priests, were present at the funeral where the priests protested, according to the archdiocese.
“It is because we feel helpless that we reacted the way that we did yesterday. We wanted the world to know. We wanted to cry to the world for help,” Kyom said.
“People are suffering, especially Christians are suffering in the northern part of Nigeria, particularly Kaduna state.”
Archbishop Matthew Man-Oso Ndagoso of Kaduna broke into tears as he buried Father Vitus Borogo, a 50-year-old priest of the diocese who was killed along Kaduna-Kachia Road on June 25.
“Yesterday, the emotion got to a boiling point,” Kyom said.
“The bishop was so moved with emotion that he cried at the gravesite of the priest. This is something that I have never seen before. … It was such an overwhelming emotion yesterday for everybody.”
More Christians are killed for their faith in Nigeria than in any other country worldwide — at least 4,650 in 2021, and nearly 900 in the first three months of 2022 alone, according to Open Doors.
Nigeria’s Kaduna state, in particular, has been described as “an epicenter of kidnapping and violence by non-state actors” in Nigeria by the UK-based human rights foundation Christian Solidarity Worldwide. A 2022 report by the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom cites six attacks against churches in Kaduna State in 2021.
Kyom, who formerly served as the chancellor of the Archdiocese of Kaduna, said Christians are frustrated by the local government’s lack of response to the violence.
“The persecution is so much that we feel the government is complicit,” he said.
“If we had a governor that is a Christian in Kaduna state, I’m very sure that the reaction to the killings would have been different. I don’t think that a Christian governor would sit back and allow these terrorists to kill people.”
“A lot of communities that have been destroyed are Christian communities and the people destroying them are Muslims,” he added.
The European Union Agency for Asylum reports that the main violent actors in Kaduna state are Fulani ethnic militias and unidentified armed groups. It notes that Boko Haram has also reportedly conducted attacks in the region and that farmer-herder conflicts have intensified during the COVID-19 lockdown period in the North-West of Nigeria.
The Nigerian priest noted that it would mean a lot to Christians in Nigeria to hear more from Pope Francis on the issue.
“I think that the attention of the hierarchy should be drawn to Nigeria, to Kaduna state in particular … [because] Kaduna state is strategic to peace in Nigeria,” he said.
Kyom said that sometimes it feels like the international community does not believe that people are really dying in Nigeria.
“But this is the reality for some of us who are here … We need help in whatever way, shape, or form. That’s the reality,” he said. “Now the government does not seem to have any solution, any deliberate measures to tackle the situation. There is nothing visible for us to see to be hopeful in this situation.”