June 20, 2024

Massacre at Catholic Church leaves at least 50 dead in Nigeria, where more Christians are killed than anywhere else

St Francis Catholic Church following an explosion in Owo Nigeria, Sunday, June 5, 2022. AP Photo/Rahaman A Yusuf
St Francis Catholic Church following an explosion in Owo Nigeria, Sunday, June 5, 2022. AP Photo/Rahaman A Yusuf

On Pentecost Sunday, gunmen opened fire on a southwest Nigerian Catholic church, killing at least 50 churchgoers.

The June 5 attack is the most recent massacre of Christians in Nigeria, which is the most violent country in the world for Christians despite nearly half of the nation identifying as Christians.

Attacks against Christians have become commonplace since the rise of extremist groups such as Boko Haram and Islamic State in West African Province (ISWAP). The majority of these attacks have taken place in the Muslim-majority north. However, recent attacks such as Sunday’s massacre indicate that the violence is spreading into the south.

According to Genocide Watch, 6,006 Christians were killed in Nigeria during the fifteen months from January 2021 to March 2022.

Open Doors reports that of the 5,898 Christians killed across the world in 2021, nearly 80 percent of them were in Nigeria. On average, nearly 13 Christians are killed every day in Nigeria.

“I was deeply saddened to learn of the horrific attack at Saint Francis church in Owo in Nigeria. Pray Together for all those affected by this act of unspeakable violence and for the conversion of those blinded by hatred and violence,” said Pope Francis via Twitter.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said of the attack, “No matter what, this country shall never give in to evil and wicked people, and darkness will never overcome light. Nigeria will eventually win.”

However, the need for change is dire as thousands of innocent Nigerian Christians continue to be killed for their faith every year. For years, Nigeria has been plagued by ongoing violence and insecurity. As insurgent militant groups continue to control regions, civilian lives are put in jeopardy.

“This is the latest in the ongoing wave of brutal attacks on Nigeria’s Christians. Political and religious leaders around the world must condemn this barbarism and put pressure on Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to do what it takes finally to stop the violence and protect the Nigerian people. It is also imperative that the U.S. State Department reinstate Nigeria as a country of Particular Concern that violates religious freedom. Christians are not the only victims of faith-based violence in Nigeria, but they are the principal target,” said George Marlin, chairman of the board of the Aid to the Church in Need USA.

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