Ondo Massacre: A priest kidnapped, as Nigeria remains shocked over the massacre in the church of Owo
Although it is still not clear who was responsible for the massacre in the church of Saint Francis Xavier in Owo, Ondo State (south-western Nigeria), which took place on Sunday June 5 (see Fides, 6/6/2022), it has been made public that a few hours before the attack, a Catholic priest had been kidnapped in Obangede, in the local government area of Okehi in Kogi State, bordering Ondo State. Father Christopher Itopa Onotu, parish priest of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, was allegedly kidnapped on Saturday June 4, but most parishioners did not notice his disappearance until the next morning, not seeing him arrive to celebrate the Mass of Pentecost. Witnesses have reported that armed men entered the rectory around 9 p.m. and kidnapped the priest by force. According to reports, the kidnappers forced a window and the main door to enter Father Onotu’s flat and beat him before taking him away. A witness affirms that the criminals left in the priest’s car and, although they did not take his two mobile phones, they did take the SIM cards of the devices. Meanwhile, Nigerian authorities have released the official death toll from the Owo church bombing. The National Emergency Management Agency reports that there are 22 dead and 50 injured; previously the press had reported that there were at least 50 victims. Among them children and young people. For the time being, the authorities have not distanced themselves from responsibility for the attack, which appears to have been organized and carried out by a well-armed and trained group. As reported yesterday by Agenzia Fides, the attack was preceded by at least one first explosion outside the church, followed by a shooting that reached the faithful as they left the building of worship at the end of the Pentecost mass. Police report that they have recovered some unexploded household items and numerous AK-47 (Kalashnikov) shells. The assault has been condemned by the Nigerian bishops, who call on the government to ensure the safety of all Nigerians (see Fides 6/6/2022). The president of the Nigerian Council of Lay Catholics, Sir Henry Yunkwap, has warned that the government’s inaction could have very serious consequences for the stability of the country, because it encourages the establishment of the self-defense formation. “Any government that cannot provide security for its people is indirectly telling them to defend themselves by any means possible,” Yunkwap said. “We are really tired of words, we want action to be taken and for the perpetrators of this evil act to be urgently arrested and prosecuted,” he said in conclusion, hoping that the murderers will answer before the law for their criminal actions.