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)

    By uCatholic

    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

Ten Who Shine

Catholics who showed us the good and beautiful in 2022

    In this issue, we spotlight 10 Catholic individuals who “made a difference” in 2022 –– and beyond. Five of them are members of the Catholic clergy, men whose ordination has deepened and broadened a life-long desire to serve Christ and their fellow men by offering their entire lives to Him. Their life’s work has been infused with the grace of the Gospel, transforming them to love and serve others because they were first “captured,” falling in love with Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

    Five of them are lay people who, like most of us, must struggle every day in between “the world” and “the Church,” to keep that love burning. Each of us desires to shine a light on something good and beautiful that God has given us in this time, and that modern man in all his troubles and sorrows and confusion needs. The lay people we have chosen have done that. Join us in saluting our “Top Ten” of 2022.

    Bishop Jude Arogundade

    Nigerian Bishop on a Mission

    The world should not ignore the continuing Christian genocide in Nigeria…

    Bishop Jude Arogundade, 60, of Ondo, Nigeria, said the Christians of his country are suffering persecution so intense that it borders on genocide.

    “The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria has spoken against the unprecedented insecurity situation in Nigeria repeatedly, but to no avail,” he said in a November 16, 2022 speech in a committee room of the U.K.’s Houses of Parliament.

    “We have walked for life, protested and even called the President (Muhammadu Buhari) to resign if he is incapable of fulfilling the basic purpose of government — the security of lives and properties of citizens. Even at that, nothing has changed,” he said.

    “With 3,478 people killed as of June this year and the increased cases of terror thereafter,” he said he strongly wished to appeal to the U.K. government and “all people of goodwill to compel the Nigerian government to stop the genocide” before Nigeria is overrun as Afghanistan was.

    Bishop Arogundade made his remarks at the launch in London of “Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians Oppressed for Their Faith 2020-22,” a project of the British branch of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need.

    He began by recalling the June 5, 2022 Pentecost Sunday massacre in his own diocese — at St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo. It left 41 people dead and 73 others seriously injured.

    “Like other attacks on churches in Nigeria, no one has been charged for committing this crime,” he said.

    “The world must insist that terrorists, their sponsors and their sympathizers be brought to justice. Please, ask the Nigerian government to deploy all the legal instruments and political institutions for protecting and enforcing the rights and freedom of the minority to stop the killings.”

On June 5, 2022, Bishop Arogundade, together with government authorities, visited a Catholic church in southwest Nigeria brutally attacked during Sunday Mass

    Incredibly, in 2021 the U.S. State Department under Secretary Anthony Blinken removed Nigeria from the list of the world’s worst violators of religious freedom — despite the fact that the U.S. nonprofit Open Doors USA found that in 2021, more Christians were killed — 4,650 — than in all the rest of the world combined.

    The bishop added: “This pogrom is not caused by climate change as believed by some Western climate change ideologists. It is far from it. It is clearly the use of terrorism to accomplish an age-long ethno/religious objective.”

    Arogundade has spoken out before against those who blame shrinking resources due to climate change — like president of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, when he called the Pentecost Sunday massacre “a source of particular condemnation, as is any attempt to scapegoat pastoral peoples who are among the foremost victims of the consequences of climate change.”

    “While thanking the Honorable Mr. Higgins for joining others to condemn the attack… his reasons for this gruesome massacre are incorrect and far-fetched,” Arogundade said in a message dated June 10.

    “To suggest or make a connection between victims of terror and consequences of climate change is not only misleading but also exactly rubbing salt to the injuries of all who have suffered terrorism in Nigeria,” he said.

    Arogundade believes the attack to be part of a broader movement to establish an Islamic caliphate in Nigeria, which is roughly one-half Muslim.

    “Immediately, I saw a mission entrusted to me,” Arogundade, a naturalized U.S. citizen with numerous American contacts, told Catholic News Agency. “My first thought was, ‘I can really do something about this. I can really bring a further awareness to this. I can reach out to many places.’ And at that point I was ready to talk to anybody who cared to listen to me.”

    Among the first to offer Arogundade his support was the leader of his former archdiocese, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York.

    In July, that mission brought Arogundade to Washington, D.C., where he was a guest of the nonprofit Catholic organization Aid to the Church in Need and a featured speaker at the International Religious Freedom Summit. The three-day event shone a light on cases of religious persecution going on throughout the world.

    The soft-spoken bishop delivered a blunt and sobering message. “What’s going on now is genocide,” he told CNA. “It’s pure ethno-religious cleansing. That’s what it is. And it’s getting worse.”

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