Nigeria, Cardinal Onaiyekan: “Nobody stops these criminals, but Islam is not at war with us”

from Gian Guido Vecchi

The massacre of Catholics in Owo: «They also kill in mosques, schools and villages, the question is more than religious. The government fails to guarantee our security “

VATICAN CITY «You see, if there was a war of Muslims against Christians, I would denounce it and I would tell you that I am on the side of my people to defend them. But there is no war like this, I don’t see it ». The voice of Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, 78, archbishop emeritus of Abuja, sounds disheartened, “all those poor people, gathered at Mass on the day of Pentecost … It is a disaster and a great pain for all of us, not just Catholics: all the Nigerians “. For years he has seen thousands of dead, innocent people killed while they are praying. “I don’t know if and to what extent those who do this are motivated by religious reasons, those who go around killing people certainly do not promote the Islamic religion, even if they say they are Muslim and claim the Jihad. I know that in Nigeria we are more or less half Christian and half Muslim and we live together and we would like to do it in peace ».

So what happens, Eminence?

“I don’t have all the details of what happened yet. It is a different situation from the attacks in the north of the country, the state of Ondo is in the south of Nigeria and here Christians, not Catholics but Christians in general, are a large majority. They say it was the Fulani shepherds, who are Muslims. But sometimes, even in the North, these criminal groups also kill people in mosques, during prayer. The question is much more than a matter between Christians and Muslims ».

“The president reacted with great force, he repeated the usual promise that they will do everything to find the perpetrators etc., a speech we have heard many times. Nothing will happen, or at least nothing serious. Politicians think about next year’s elections. Unfortunately Nigeria finds itself in a situation in which the government is unable to ensure our security and defend us from these criminal armed groups ”.

But what are they aiming for? To the money? To destabilize the country?

“I don’t see how they could make money like that. If anyone wants to destabilize Nigeria, provoke a war, we don’t know. The country is not officially at war, it has no external enemy. The only war I see is that of these criminal gangs who aim to create disorder and confusion among the faithful. We continually see senseless, diabolical violence. They go to churches but also to villages, schools, mosques. Maybe they are small groups, they shoot and run away. They kill people without mercy. Similar things cannot happen in 2022, how can we live in a country like this? Television and media from all over the world will talk about it. I, as an archbishop and a Nigerian, am ashamed ».

«Groups of shepherds, often armed, looking for land for their cows, wander around in search of pastures, sometimes they take possession of it with violence. They say the president is from the same ethnicity, but that’s not the point. The point is that the police, the army, the police are unable to stop them ».

What do the faithful, the people you meet, tell you?

«A sense of insecurity prevails. Pain and anger. People feel powerless in front of these criminals, without there being a way or anyone who knows how to defend us ».


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