Pope Francis on Sunday decried an attack on a church in Nigeria during which two priests and other worshippers were killed.
Associated Press reports that the pontiff spoke on Nigeria during his remarks to the public in St. Peter’s Square.
“The pontiff prayed that Nigeria’s Christian community find harmony and peace,” AP reported.
The pope’s comments came just as a large number of Christians in Nigeria obeyed the call by the Christian Association of Nigeria to, after the Sunday services, protest against the killings by Fulani herdsmen in Benue State and other parts of the country.
The CAN President, Rev. Olasupo Ayokunle, in a statement last Wednesday had said, “CAN urges Christians in Nigeria to hold peaceful protest on the set aside date, on the premises of their churches, asking the Federal Government and security agencies to stop the unending killings and bloodshed in the country.”
Benue churches vow to work against Buhari
Christian across churches in Benue State on Sunday held the protest on their church premises, vowing to work against Buhari candidacy in the 2109.
Our correspondent who visited some of the churches in Makurdi, the state capital, reported that many worshippers of various Christian denominations wore black attire.
Some of them displayed placards with the inscriptions, “Buhari is responsible for the killings in Benue, ‘FG must come out to defend us,’ ‘Enough of bloodshed in Nigeria,’ ‘Enough of unlawful killings in the country,’ and ‘FG, stop herdsmen killings,’ among others.
At the Holy Ghost Catholic Church, Wadata, one of the parishioners, Mrs. Elizabeth Oduh, said, “President Buhari has not lived up to the expectations of Nigerians.
“The Federal Government should protect its citizens and stop paying lip service to security.”
At NKST Church, Iyorter, along Makurdi-Gboko Road, the worshippers prayed and laid curses on killer herdsmen.
The associate pastor of the church, Rev. Samuel Ackaudu, said, “In Benue state, we have realised that our lives are no longer valuables.
“There is no way that the Christian community in Benue State will support Buhari’s second term ambition.”
The resident pastor, NKST Church High-level, Makurdi, Pastor Fredrick Ikya, said the President had offended the Christian community by allowing Fulani herdsmen to kill God’s anointed people.
Kogi CAN urges FG to act
The Kogi State chapter of CAN, which joined the protest on various church premises, called for the immediate stoppage of the killings.
The Kogi State Chairman of CAN, Bishop John Ibenu, who spoke in his ‘Chapel of Freedom’ church in Lokoja, called on the Federal Government to set up a truth and reconciliation commission over the attacks.
Ibenu said, “It is a national day of prayer and protest, Christians don’t protest; if we have to, that means the issues have reached the peak.
“Killings have continued unabated and have been taken to the church. There is no grass for cattle to eat in the church, but the herdsmen invaded the church and killed worshippers.
“Government must act to make sure that this was not something aimed at the church but started in the farm.”
Osun Christians threaten to stop Buhari
Many Christians in Osun State on Sunday also staged protests against the killings by herdsmen.
Worshippers at the Union Baptist Church in the Odi Olowo area of Osogbo, the Osun State capital, led by their pastor, who is also the Chairman, Nigeria Baptist Convention, Rev. Olumide Kehinde, marched through some adjoining streets to the church after the end of the service.
The same happened at the Gospel Faith Mission International in the Agunbelewo area, along the Osogbo-Ilobu Road, where church members were led by Pastor Olatunji Adegbite.
Members of the Calvary Baptist Church, Osogbo, led by Rev. Femi Abiola, also obeyed CAN’s directive.
Although members of the Winners Chapel, Osogbo, did not protest, the Osun State Pastor of the church, Pastor Dapo Olumuyiwa, during the first service, led worshippers in prayers against those using their positions to encourage killings in the country.
At the Union Baptist Church, the NBC chairman and members of the church asked Buhari to stop the killings, kidnapping and persecution of Christians.
Kehinde said, “We want to tell the President that enough is enough. President Buhari should look into all these killings and make sure that they are stopped.
“Buhari should ensure that the Chibok girls are released and Leah Sharibu ( the only Dapchi girl remaining in Boko Haram captivity) should be released. Leah refused to deny Jesus Christ in the face of threat and Buhari must ensure her release.
“We voted him because we wanted change but this is not the change we want. We are ready to vote for another change if he doesn’t stop the killings.”
Time to use our voter cards –CAN president
Members of various Christian denominations in Oyo State on Sunday joined the protest against killings by herdsmen.
In some of the churches where the protests held, church members walked around the premises with a call on the Federal Government to improve on the security situation in the country.
They also warned that Buhari’s re-election bid might suffer unless he stopped the killings.
At the Oritamefa Baptist Church, Ibadan, where CAN President, Dr Supo Ayokunle, worshipped, more than 2,000 members participated in the protest.
Some of the inscriptions on placards displayed were ‘CAN says no to violent killings,’ ’FG, stop this wicked act,’ and ‘CAN says no to religious killings.’
Ayokunle said Nigerians had lost faith in the country’s security chiefs and agencies, calling for their removal.
He said, “It used to be Boko Haram alone, now herdsmen, especially the Fulani people, have joined them and they have been killing people and decimating communities.
“Now they have concentrated on Christian communities; the Middle Belt, which is majority Christians, they have been killing and maiming, and to cap it all, they have now started going into churches.
“If we are still not safe in the house of God, where else do they want us to be safe? The Inspector General of Police is there, doing nothing. What of the intelligence service of the security agencies, why are they inept?
“We have lost faith in the security agencies and all the security chiefs must be sacked and replace with new ones. No more bloodshed; if the bloodshed continues, this administration should forget about 2019. We cannot continue like this.”
The CAN president noted that it was time for Nigerians to use their votes to correct the anomalies of the present government of Buhari, calling on the people to get their Permanent Voter Cards.
However, at the Trinity Baptist Church, Ajobo; Wonderland Baptist Church, Orogun; and Iyanu Oluwa Baptist Church, Ojo, congregants held prayer sessions on the premises of their churches and displayed placards, demanding an end to the killings in the country.
‘Killers are being protected’
In Lagos, the Head, Directorate of Intergovernmental Relations, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, Lagos State, Pastor Barnabas Otoibhi, said CAN local assemblies protested in front of their churches.
Otoibhi, who is also the General Overseer of the Temple Rebuilder Ministry, aka Soul Winners Bible Church, said he protested along with members of his church, adding that they prayed for most part of the exercise.
He said, “My view on the killings is that government is not doing anything. It has not shown interest in resolving the crisis. It appears to me that people who are actually responsible for these killings are being protected.
“My suggestion is that while we pray as Christians, there is also the need for us to come out openly; there should be an open protest so that the whole world will know that Christians are against what is going on. Christians should let the world know what is going on so that there can be a permanent solution.”
Also, hundreds of worshippers at the First Baptist Church Kosofe, Lagos, joined the protest against the killings.
Armed with various inscriptions on placards, they demanded an end to the killings by herdsmen and the release of Leah Sharibu.
The Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church Kosofe, Rev. Festus Olatunde, said, “We condemn the activities of the herdsmen that are killing people; herdsmen have no reason to be carrying guns.”
Declare herdsmen terrorists –Kano CAN
The Kano State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria on Sunday asked the Federal Government to declare herdsmen across the country as terrorists.
Briefing journalists at the Sarkin Yaki CAN secretariat in Sabon Gari, Kano, the state CAN Chairman, Rev. Adeolu Adeyemo, said CAN in Kano opted to embark on prayer session to seek divine intervention.
He said, “The alleged killer herdsmen are mercenaries, and therefore, we demand the Federal Government to declare and treat them as terrorists.
“The military should confront them head-on to stop them, while the Federal Government should get their sponsors and bring them to justice.”
Adeyemo said CAN in Kano decided not to embark on a protest so as not to give hoodlums opportunity to hijack it to foment trouble.
Sokoto CAN opts for prayers
Sokoto State CAN on Sunday offer special prayers for peace nationwide and the repose of the soul of those killed by herdsmen.
The state CAN Chairman, Rev. Fr. Nuhu Iliya, was said to have directed churches to offer special prayers for peace instead of the protest.
Churches visited within Sokoto metropolis by our correspondents complied with the directives and offered special prayers.
Chairman of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, Pastor John Olabode, of the Kings Assembly, likened Nigeria to a jungle and urged Christians to be steadfast in prayer for the judgment of God on the marauders.
On his part, Rev. Emmanuel Diala of the Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral, Ahmadu Bello Way, Sokoto, led the congregation to call on God to arrest those persecuting the body of Christ.
ECWA Church wants Buhari out
Major streets in Jos, Plateau State capital, was on Sunday shut down for about two hours as members of the Evangelical Church Winning All (Goodnews Church), took to the streets to protest against the killings by Fulani herdsmen in the country.
Senior Pastor, ECWA Goodnews Church, Rev. Joshua Tuwan, who led the protest, said several excuses being spewed out by the Federal Government had shown that Buhari’s administration “is clueless about governance.”
He called on Nigerians to vote out the government of the All Progressives Congress in the 2019 election.
CAN protest rocks Ekiti
Christians in Ekiti State took to the streets on Sunday to be part of the protest called by CAN.
The protest took place under heavy security provided by a joint patrol of men of the Nigeria Police and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.
CAN said the “onslaught against Christians” might lead to war if not stopped.
Led by the state Chairman of CAN, Rev. Joshua Orikogbe, the body called on Buhari to stop the menace.
The protesters marched from CAN state headquarters in Ori Apata, Adebayo Road, through the popular Adekunle Fajuyi Memorial Park to the Government House where they sent a letter to the President through Governor Ayodele Fayose.
Orikogbe said, “We are being pushed to the wall by these wanton killings of Christians and cleric’s”
Fayose, who was represented by his Special Adviser on Religious Matters, Pastor Seyi Olusola, received the protesters and promised to transmit their grievances to the appropriate quarters.
Christians in Taraba seek end to killings
Christians in Taraba on Sunday converged on CAN secretariat in Jalingo, calling on the Federal Government to end the killings by herdsmen.
The Christians who were dressed in black called on the Federal Government to avert war in the country.
The state Vice Chairman of CAN, Apostle John Aina, said, “The conspiracy of silence between the Presidency and security chiefs has made the attacks to assume a new and dangerous dimension as the attackers have extended their killings to churches.
“These killings must stop now. We are tired of the Federal Government sending condolence messages.
“The attackers are not spirits; why is it that nobody has been arrested despite the killings of hundreds of people on a daily basis in Benue, Taraba and other parts of the country?’’
Presenting the protesters’ message, the wife of the Governor of Taraba State, Mrs. Anna Darius Ishaku, said, “We pray God intervene in the situation we have found ourselves in.”
Partial compliance as FCT churches protest
Some churches in the Federal Capital Territory on Sunday protested against the killings in parts of the country.
The protesting worshippers, called on the Federal Government to curb the killings in Taraba, Adamawa, Benue, Plateau states and others.
The protest by congregants of the First Baptist Church, Area 11, Garki, Abuja, was led by the Senior Pastor, Rev. Israel Akanji, who admonished Buhari to rise up to the security challenge in the country.
Akanji said, “There are places that other people and Christians are being killed; Christians should not avenge themselves, but God said, ‘vengeance is mine;’ however, if they are attacked, they should defend themselves,” the cleric said.
The protest also held at the National Ecumenical Centre in Abuja.
Checks however showed that most of the Pentecostal churches did not observe the protest.
Few Delta Christians protest
The protest against killings by herdsmen recorded poor compliance in Delta State on Sunday as many churches did not obey CAN’s directive.
However, Christians who took part in the exercise, mostly in Warri and Asaba, called on Buhari to stop the killings.
The protesters, mostly of the Nigeria Baptist Convention, warned that if the situation was not urgently addressed, Nigeria might be heading for religious unrest.
Some Christains in Warri held a peaceful rally at the popular Okumagba Estate Roundabout where they also prayed for an end to the security challenges in the country.
In Asaba, the protest was led by members of the Divine Way Baptist Church.
One of the pastors, Rev. Sunday Adoayoke, lamented government’s failure to address the bloodbath.
He added, “If the killing doesn’t stop, the protest will continue. The church in Nigeria is under siege.”
However, none of the catholic parishes visited in Warri, Effurun and Asaba observed the protest.
Protesters reject Ondo dep gov
The protest in Ondo State recorded a mild drama as the protesters refused to listen to the address of the state Deputy Governor, Mr. Agboola Ajayi, insisting that the governor should address them.
The protesters, who commenced the protest at about 12pm on Sunday on the Oba Adesida Road, Akure, moved to the Government House in Alagbaka to meet the state Governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu.
It was gathered that it was the deputy governor that stepped outside to address the protesters, but they refused to be addressed by him, insisting that Akeredolu must address them.
They declined to listen to the deputy governor, saying the governor did not take them seriously.
The CAN Chairman in Ondo State, Rev. John Oladapo, condemned alleged lopsidedness of appointment of security chiefs in the country, calling on Buhari to address it.
He said, “Why is it that all our security chiefs are from the same region. We condemn this appointment. Our government must listen to us. Let Buhari forget 2019 for now and face security issues in the country.
Imo Christians ignore CAN protest
All the churches that our correspondent visited on Sunday in Owerri, Imo State, observed their normal church services without any protest as directed by the national leadership of CAN.
Speaking to our correspondent on why the CAN national president’s directive was not observed in Imo State, the CAN Chairman in the state, Apostle Godson Ibeji, said members of the Christian body were not told.
The CAN chairman said apart from newspaper publications, there was no correspondence from the national secretariat.
Ibeji said, “There was no official communication asking Imo CAN to protest against killings in Nigeria.”
Ibeji called on Christians all over the country to be vigilant, pray and believe that God would arrest the ugly situation in Benue State and other parts of the country.