Tuesday June 28th: The Word of God
June 28, 2022
Build the synodal church
June 28, 2022

Violence in Nigeria: A Pentecost reflection

Three postulants: Bro Yannick-Celestin Kabi OSB, Bro Samuel Muhindo and Bro Victor Okam will be received into the Novitiate at the Abbey Church, Mt St Benedict Monday July 4, 2022.

Three postulants: Bro Yannick-Celestin Kabi OSB, Bro Samuel Muhindo and Bro Victor Okam will be received into the Novitiate at the Abbey Church, Mt St Benedict Monday July 4, 2022.

Bro Yannick has written a reflection on the recent violence in Nigeria on the Feast of Pentecost:

“On Sunday, June 05, 2022, the Universal Church celebrated the Solemnity of Pentecost which brought the Easter season to a close. However, the songs of joy to celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit, have turned into tears, mourning and desolation for the parish community of Saint Francis of Owo in the diocese of Ondo in Nigeria. Instead of a sudden noise from heaven (Act 2:1), it was the sounds of Kalashnikovs (automatic rifles), bombs and other flat weapons that startled this peaceful community. The symbol of peace, the dove, has been transformed into terror, into slaughter, into carnage. Several martyrs have fallen and their only crime is to be Christians. The images are very violent, shocking and unbearable. The victims are of all ages, the number of victims as well as the modus operandi of the terrorists are the subject of a media war between on the one hand, the witnesses and civil society who speak of more than 50 dead and on the other hand, the ethical and military authorities who speak of 25 dead.

However, the images are from the side of civil society and witnesses. For more than 20 years, Nigeria has been the prey of several Islamic terrorist groups, the most violent and well known of which is Boko Haram, which is the author of several abuses and kidnappings, including that of several young schoolgirls from Shibok. For the witnesses, the terrorists wanting to make as many victims as possible claimed to be the soldiers of Allah. They shot at the faithful while shouting Allah Akbar (God is Great). Once again, the name of God is used not to save lives but to destroy them. This unfortunate event comes on top of many victims, Catholics and all Christians in Nigeria. The assassination and kidnapping of priests and Christians, attacks on schools and training centers; everything remains to be believed with evidence that the Christian faith wants to be annihilated. Faced with this distressing situation, several questions may cross the minds of victimised Christians:

How to go to pray in the Church knowing that at any moment the enemy of peace and our faith can attack us? Should the Church ask the faithful to have the spirit of self-defense? Should the Church resign itself?

While asking the civil and military authorities of Nigeria to assume their responsibility to protect the people and their property, the solution for us remains the thorny question of inter-religious dialogue in general and Islam-Christian relations in particular.

As Pope Francis noted to the members of the Dicastery for Inter-religious Dialogue: ”inter-religious dialogue is crucial in a world torn by conflict” (Vaticannews.va). Considered by the Quran to be the closest believers to Islam (Quran 5, 82), Christians must take the path of dialogue with Muslims. Dialogue remains the greatest alternative to violence. Answering our question on the resurgence of Islamic terrorism in the world, a Congolese imam will tell us that the day when God asks him to kill in His name, he will automatically become an atheist. But he will conclude by saying that this day will never come because the God of the sons of Abraham is not a God of terror or of death, but a God of life. Therefore, the Jihad that a true Muslim must carry out is not that of the sword, but a Jihad of the heart in collaboration with Christians and others against violence. Any authentic jihad is that against hunger, injustices and anti-values in the world. Jihad is therefore restorative and not destructive, professing the faith of Abraham and believing in a merciful God (LG 16). Christians and Muslims must put themselves on the table of dialogue by helping men of all cultures, races, and religions by fully realising their human dimensions.

It is only in a sincere dialogue and at all levels that Christians and Muslims, with Pentecost in the blood, end up understanding that even if our feet or our steps on earth are different, all our eyes are turned towards God in Heaven. This is what the late Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran said, ‘peace in the world depends a lot on peace between Christians and Muslims’. In the hope of the Resurrection, may the martyrs of Pentecost and all the victims of terrorism rest in peace.“