A Catholic priest in Nigeria was fatally shot June 7, sending shockwaves throughout his Christian community.
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The Rev. Charles Onomhoale Igechi, vice principal of St. Michael College, Ikhueniro, was slaughtered while driving through Benin, Edo in Nigeria, Morning Star News reported.
The tragic killing was announced in a statement by the Rev. Augustine Akubeze, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Benin.
“With great shock we received the news this morning that he was shot on his way back to his place of assignment, on the 7th of June, 2023, and his remains were found by Boundary Street in Ikpoba Hill, Ikpoba Okha Local Government Area, Edo state,” Akubeze said, according to Morning Star News. “He was killed by gunmen, as they riddled his body with bullets after they shot him on the back.”
He continued, “We pray that the perpetrators of this evil act will be brought to face the wrath of justice.”
Police are reportedly investigating the murder, and the gunmen responsible have not yet been identified.
Ignechi had reportedly been installed as a priest less than one year ago on Aug. 13, 2022. His tragic slaughter is part of an ongoing pattern of anti-Christian murder and persecution in Nigeria.
Catholic News Agency reported another priest, Father Stanislaus Mbamara, was abducted June 2 but later set free. Other faith leaders have faced similar circumstances.
As CBN News recently reported, David Curry, CEO of Global Christian Relief, and Joel Veldkamp, head of international communications at Christian Solidarity International, recently joined CBN’s Faithwire to discuss the ever-growing persecution in Nigeria.
Persistent issues in the African nation shot into the headlines in 2022, when a Christian college student was horrifically stoned to death.
Veldkamp warned that some Muslim officials are using diabolical methods to grow their support.
“They grow their power base … by encouraging Islamic extremism and anti-Christian extremism,” he said.
Nigeria ranks sixth on Open Doors’ “World Watch List,” an annual ranking of the nations where Christian persecution is most severe. According to the report accompanying the rankings, Nigerian Christians “suffer persecution from an ingrained agenda of enforced Islamisation.”
Here’s more from Open Doors:
“Since the northern states declared allegiance to Sharia (Islamic law) in 1999, this enforced Islamisation has gained momentum, by violent and non-violent means. Attacks by Islamic militant groups have increased consistently since 2015, but the government has failed to prevent the rise in violence, which affects all Nigerians, but particularly Christians.
The violence is most pervasive in the north, where militant groups such as Boko Haram, ISWAP and Fulani militants inflict murder, physical injury, abduction and sexual violence on their victims. Christians are dispossessed of their land and their means of livelihood. Many live as internally displaced people or refugees.”
As CBN’s Faithwire previously reported, Veldkamp shared in a December interview some of the other stories unfolding inside the region, revealing conversations with priests in Nigeria who have witnessed and experienced the unthinkable.
“Earlier in the week, I had talked to two different priests from two different states in Nigeria,” he said at the time. “One is in the middle of the country, and one is in the deep south of the country. One priest… had just visited a village where 20 Christians were killed the week before. He met a father who saw four of his children killed in front of his eyes.”
This same priest met another mother and father who lost one of their children and saw homes being burned to the ground. One of those interview subjects somberly said, “I stood on the ashes of human beings.”
The second priest came from the deep south of Nigeria, where Christians had been, until recently, “relatively safe,” according to Veldkamp.
But that priest witnessed a massive attack on his village by the Fulani ethnic group, leaving around 12 dead. The faith leader had reportedly warned authorities but to no avail.
Other horrors have persisted. A Christian woman was reportedly murdered in August 2022 while cleaning her church. Lyop Dalyop was purportedly sweeping and cleaning Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) on Aug. 27 in the Plateau state when she was shot and killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen.
Separately, last July, a Nigerian pastor and his sons were attacked in the Adamawa state, an area known for Islamic extremism. And an attack on a church on Pentecost Sunday in Nigeria in early June killed at least 50 people, with militants using guns and bombs.
These instances only cover a small portion of the horrors Christians have faced.
See the 2023 “World Watch List” rankings and read more here.
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