Letter #19, 2023 Tuesday, January 17: Top Ten 2022, #10: Bishop Jude Arogundade
Each year we choose to honor 10 people who were exemplary for their faith, hope and love during the past year.
For 2022, we did the same, publishing the profiles of the “Top Ten” in the January-February issue of Inside the Vatican magazine.
Now I will be sending out brief profiles of these 10 people in these letters.
The first one is the courageous Bishop Jude Arogundade, 60, of Ondo, Nigeria, who has become one of the leading speakers in the world against the “pure ethno-religious cleansing” by radical Islamist groups that has been occurring in Nigeria, especially in the northern part of the country, for some years.
Unfortunately, this persecution is continuing.
Here is a report from today, January 17, about the tragic death by burning of a priest, Father Isaac Achi, on January 15, two days ago, when his rectory was set on fire:
Catholic Priest Killed in Nigeria (link)
January 17, 2023
On January 15th, a tragic event occurred in the village of Kafin Koro, northern Nigeria, where a band of armed criminals set fire to the rectory of the Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church, resulting in the death of one of its priests, Father Isaac Achi.
The Catholic Diocese of Minna, Nigeria, confirmed the discovery of Father Achi’s body among the ashes of the parish building.
The attack took place at the early hours of 3 a.m. when the bandits broke into the priest’s residence. Another priest present in the rectory, Father Collins Omeh, was able to escape the burning building, but not without sustaining gunshot wounds. He is currently receiving medical treatment.
The Governor of the Nigerian state of Niger, Alhaji Sani Bello Abubakar, has labeled the attack as “ungodly and inhumane” and has ordered the local security agencies to pursue the attackers, as reported by The Daily Post. He further stated, “This is a sad moment, for a priest to be killed in such a manner means that we are not all safe, these terrorists have lost it, and drastic action is needed to end this ongoing carnage.”
Father Isaac Achi was not only a dedicated parish priest of the Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church, but also served as the chairman of his local branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).
The Diocese of Minna, in a statement shared by the Nigeria Catholic Network, expressed their condolences, “May the soul of very Reverend Father Isaac Achi and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in perfect peace.”
This senseless act of violence has shaken the community and serves as a reminder of the ongoing dangers and the need for peace and justice in the region.
Pray for Father Achi!
[End, uCatholic article on the burning to death of Father Achi]
Why this persecution?
Nigeria’s population, which is comprised of hundreds of small and large tribes and an equal number of languages, is about 47% Christian and about 53% Muslim. (These figures are rough estimates and do not include some much smaller groups.) So Christians are in a minority, especially in the largely Islamic north.
A recent analysis of this terrible persecution of Christians in northern Nigeria by the Family Research Council attributes the attacks to Islamic jihadist groups: “radical Islamist groups such as Boko Haram, Islamic State of West Africa Provence (ISWAP), and Fulani jihadis.”
The analysis states:
“News stories about the assaults in Nigeria are rarely reported in mainstream media outlets, and instead are generally found in publications sponsored by Christian organizations in their newsletters and websites. For this reason, the genocidal intentions of radical Islamist groups such as Boko Haram, Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP), and Fulani jihadis have not gained sufficient attention to alert global powers and authorities. To make matters worse, when these incidents are reported, they are regularly explained away as effects of climate change, local feuds, or internecine religious wars for which both sides bear equal responsibility.” (For the full report, see here.)
Open Doors, a registered Christian charity in Great Britain, has a “World Watch” list of countries where Christians are persecuted, writes: “The persecution facing Christians in Nigeria is extreme and often brutally violent, as Islamic militants and armed bandits attack with increasing impunity. This mostly affects believers living in the Muslim-majority north and Middle Belt, but it’s also spreading to the south. Although all civilians are subject to threats and violence, Christians are often specifically targeted because of their faith. Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), for example, want to eliminate the presence of Christianity in Nigeria.” (link)
So, let us pray for the soul of Father Achi, and let us honor and support the courageous work of Bishop Arogundade, and all who work for justice, reconciliation and peace in Nigeria.—RM