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Nigeria: ‘My parishioners shot dead in cold blood’: Priests, lay faithful describe attacks

For information about Orthodox Christianity in Nigeria, see here.

For previous coverage of the persecution of Christians in Nigeria from ChristianPersecution.com, see here.

“‘My parishioners shot dead in cold blood’: Priests, lay faithful describe attacks in Nigeria,” by Peter Pinedo, Catholic News Agency, March 8, 2023:

“Oh, what sorrow to have watched three of my parishioners shot dead in cold blood, right before my eyes — and I couldn’t do anything,” Nigerian parish priest Father Bako Francis Awesuh, 37, shared in a new Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) report published Friday.

“I couldn’t pray because of the shock I was in. Whenever I opened my mouth to pray, words failed me. All I could say was ‘Lord, have mercy.’”

ACN’s report, titled “Nigeria: A Bleeding Wound,” shares some of the firsthand testimonies of Catholic faithful who have survived torture, kidnappings, and massacres at the hands of Nigerian terrorists.

In May 2021, Awesuh and 10 of his parishioners were kidnapped from St. John Paul II Parish in Nigeria’s Kaduna state by radical Islamic Fulani attackers.

Awesuh was alone in his room at 11 p.m. when he heard gunshots. Terrified, he turned out the lights and waited.

“I stood there confused, not knowing what to do, as I felt completely lost. There was a knock on the door. My legs went cold and my body stiff. I was sweating profusely,” Awesuh said. “They broke down the door and forced themselves inside. One of the men pushed me to the floor, tied me up, and flogged me mercilessly.”

Awesuh and his parishioners were marched barefoot through the wilderness for three days. They were then held captive in harsh conditions for more than a month until a large ransom could be paid.

Eventually, Awesuh and his parishioners were ransomed, but not before three parishioners were shot dead during a rescue attempt.

“I narrowly escaped death,” Awesuh said. Yet, he said, there are many priests there who have not been as fortunate.

“I know of so many priests kidnapped before and after me who were killed even after a ransom was paid,” Awesuh said.

In 2022 alone more than 5,000 Christians were killed in Nigeria, according to religious freedom watchdog Open Doors International.

As a Catholic priest in Nigeria, Awesuh faces some of the highest risks of kidnapping, torture, and murder of any person in the world.

“Kidnappings are a hallmark of terrorist organizations in Nigeria … and clergy are increasingly being targeted,” the new ACN report said.

With over 30 million faithful, Catholics make up a large minority in Nigeria, accounting for approximately 14.82% of the country’s population.

Yet, violent persecution in Nigeria has become a growing concern in recent years, according to many religious freedom organizations, including ACN.

Both priests and lay faithful are regularly targeted by Islamic terror groups such as Boko Haram, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), and militant Fulani….

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