“People of God — tragedy and sorrow, small or great, have the capacity to batter and crush us only if we succumb to them,” Badejo preached.
“So, dear grieving families, friends, the parish of [St. Francis], all gathered here, I appeal to you to refuse to be crushed by the tragedy which we have before us because of your faith in Christ. Today, difficult though it is, let us choose more to give thanks to God that he gave our departed brethren the life, the faith and the privilege of belonging to Him and of returning to Him even in this incomprehensible manner.”
Despite his words of hope, Badejo forcefully criticized the government of Nigeria, especially President Muhammadu Buhari, for its perceived inaction in the face of killings of Christians in his country. Badejo mused that it seems to many people that nomadic herdsmen and insurgent groups are more powerful than the federal government at the moment.
“We are not walking corpses merely waiting to be killed. … So we are compelled to ask: Are you still our leaders? Are we at war? Have you abdicated leadership? How many more must die?” he said, addressing the federal authorities. At the same time, he thanked the governor of Ondo state, present at the funeral, and other local officials “for having done all in their power since (the attack) to bring succor to the affected people and to the Church.”
More Christians are killed for their faith in Nigeria than in any other country worldwide — at least 4,650 in 2021 and nearly 900 in the first three months of 2022 alone. Some aid organizations and experts are even assembling evidence that the killing of Christians in Nigeria constitutes genocide.
“Ritual killings, abductions, murders, lynching, kidnappings, armed robbery still increase the bloody tally of innocent deaths and suffering in Nigeria day by day,” Badejo lamented.
There exists a right to self-defense in the Catholic Church, he noted, stating that life “must be defended in the face of unprovoked aggression and imminent danger.”
Badejo addressed the perpetrators of the attack, calling them to repent and to give their lives over to Jesus Christ.
“The God of life calls on you to repent. The Church of Christ invites you to a change of heart, to cast away your arms, to repent and embrace peace,” Badejo said, addressing the attackers.
“Why would you be agents of destruction of (the) life in which you yourself share? Why be an instrument of bloodshed in this beautiful country given to all? Why would you abuse and destroy humanity of which you yourselves are part? You may make us cry and mourn but we shall never stop inviting you to come share in the love and joy of God who loves you as he loves everyone. Fill your heart with love and cast out hatred,” he urged.
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ISWAP, a breakaway faction of Boko Haram, has been identified by government officials as the likely culprit of the Pentecost attack, but Ondo State, where the attack took place, is far from ISWAP’s usual area of operations in the north of the country.
The priest who witnessed the attack said the diocese has called on other parishes for support, and that the local government as well as non-governmental organizations, like the Red Cross, and other groups including Muslim groups and imams “are coming to our aid practically and financially.” Father Andrew Adeniyi Abayomihe also said that in his view the faith of parishioners is very much alive and strong despite the attack, saying that “From my encounter with parishioners, I have not seen a loss of faith, but a strengthening.”
In an interview with CNA conducted in 2020, Bishop Badejo emphasized the relative harmony among Muslims and Christians in the diocese he shepherds, located in the southwest.
“My diocese is actually one of the centers that I use as an example of good, peaceful coexistence among religions in Nigeria, and has often been noted as well by the Vatican, as an example of what a peaceful coexistence should be like,” Badejo told CNA in 2020.
He said at the time that although his diocese sees fewer instances of outright violence than some in the north, there exist some means of persecution that are more systemic and subtle, such as government appointments and written laws which seem to favor Islam over Christianity.
“It’s no secret that in Nigeria, especially with the (President Muhammadu) Buhari government, there are all written laws that have not favored Christians at all, that have favored, in other words, the Muslims,” Badejo said, noting that Buhari is himself of Fulani ancestry.