Another day with another funeral.
Catholics in Nigeria have buried many priests and devotees who were killed in their country’s brutal wars for land, livestock, honor and religion. However, this was the first time Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of the Diocese of Sokoto preached at a seminarian’s funeral.
A suspect of the crime said 18-year-old Michael Nnadi died and urged his attackers to repent and give up their evil ways.
“We are told that this situation has nothing to do with religion,” Kukah said in remarks distributed across Nigeria in 2020. … Are we to believe that just because he kills Muslims, Boko Haram does not wear religious robes? Should we deny the evidence that lies before us that kidnappers separate Muslims from unbelievers or force Christians to convert or to die? “
The bishop was referring to heated debates – in Nigeria and around the world – about attacks by Muslim Fulani shepherds on Christian and Muslim farmers in northern and central Nigeria. The question is whether these gangs collaborated with Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
The conflict has challenged Catholics, Anglicans, Pentecostal Christians and many others, including Muslims, who oppose violence. Prominent Muslim leaders have condemned Boko Haram, and church leaders have condemned counter-attacks by Christians. In recent years it has become nearly impossible to keep track of the number of victims, including mass kidnappings of school children and murders of clergy and lay people, including beheadings.
“Religion is not the only driver of mass atrocities,” Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom told members of the House’s Foreign Affairs Committee in December. “Not all 40 million members of the Fulani ethnic group in the region are Islamic extremists. However, there is evidence that part of the Fulani have an explicit jihadist agenda. …
“A growing number of attacks in this region also testify to deep religious hatred, relentless intolerance towards Christians and the intent to eradicate their presence by forcibly evicting, killing or forcing them to convert.”
In a sobering statement on February 23, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria warned that the “nation is falling apart”.
But conditions could deteriorate quickly, the bishops said, as the “call for self-defense is rapidly gaining ground. Many ethnic champions are clamoring at the drums of war, demanding not only greater autonomy but even the utter rejection of a nation in which they have lost all trust. … Demands for ethnic secession from many quarters should not be ignored or taken lightly. “
During the pre-Easter Lent, held on April 4 for Catholics and Western Christians, Nigerian bishops conducted a rain protest march that began at the National Christian Center in the capital, Abuja, in central Nigeria.
“We lament with you … willful violence and call on the international community to help Nigeria’s security forces protect all life and restore the rule of law,” wrote Bishop David J. Mallory, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace Justice for the Catholic bishops of the United States.
Prior to this protest, the Archbishop of Lagos, Alfred Martin, published an online appeal to his flock asking them to resist the temptation to fight back. There is “so much mutual distrust, ethnic and religious, and unfortunately it is gradually degenerating into hatred and mutual loathing. This is made worse by the perception that government – responsible for ensuring justice and justice, the two values that ensure peace and mutual love – is perceived as indecent, or worse, as promoting activities leading to mutual activities lead suspicion. “
In the end he said, “It takes supernatural grace to love those who hate us.”
Bishop Kukah was even more dull during his funeral sermon for the murdered seminarist.
“You can kill the liar by force, but you cannot kill lies or install the truth,” he said. “You can kill a terrorist by violence, but you cannot end terrorism. Through violence you can murder the violent, but you cannot stop the violence. By violence you can murder the hater, but you cannot end the hatred. The unsaved person sees vengeance as power, strength, and the best means to teach the perpetrator a lesson. These are the ways of the flesh. “
Terry Mattingly runs GetReligion.org and lives in Oak Ridge, Tenn. He is a Senior Fellow at the University of Mississippi’s Overby Center.