Nigerian archbishop stresses peacemaking after church bombing

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Archbishop Matthew Man-Oso Ndagoso of Kaduna has continued to call for peace and to reject retaliation attacks in response to a suicide bomb attack on a Catholic Church during Sunday Mass last month.

“Working for peace is not an optional extra that we can choose to ignore. We can only choose to ignore it at our own peril,” Archbishop Ndagoso told Aid to the Church in Need on Nov. 14.

He said he continued to speak out “to call for calm, forgiveness, reconciliation, justice in order to give peace a chance.”

His comments follow the Oct. 28 attack on a church in Kaduna City in north central Nigeria.

More than 1,000 Christians were worshiping at St. Rita’s Catholic Church in the Malali area of Kaduna City at 9 a.m. that Sunday.

A man driving an explosives-laden jeep sought entrance at the church’s security gate. When he was refused entry, he rammed through the wall of the church compound and detonated his bomb.

He killed himself and eight others while injuring over 134 persons, including parish priest Father Michael Boni.

“The loaded car exploded right behind the choir stand and the children’s area breaking the wall leaving behind a horrific scene of devastation,” Archbishop Ndagoso said.

The archbishop immediately sent text messages to all his priests asking them to urge parishioners and others not to organize attacks in reprisal. He later praised young Christians who did not retaliate after the attack.

“Sometimes God allows very difficult and challenging situations to come our way in order for us to bear authentic Christian witness and, I think that the one we have at hand is one such rare moment,” he said. “We should and must rise up to it to be witnesses of the Gospel.”

Daily Masses resumed in the church on Nov. 4.

Archbishop Ndagoso said that attendance was “overwhelming” and a clear demonstration of their faith.

He added that everyone should be “security conscious” and support security forces in dealing with the attacks. He also stressed that the attacks were not part of a religious conflict.

“Christians and Muslims are not at war with each other,” he said. “Our country is at war with religious fanatics and criminals who are killing innocent Nigerians regardless of their religion.”

He said that good Christians, good Muslims and “all people of good will” must work to identify and punish criminals according to law.

Northern Nigeria is predominantly Muslim. The Archdiocese of Kaduna’s population in 2011 was only 9.2 percent Catholic.

Last month, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, Nigeria also rejected any interpretation of the violence as a religious conflict.

“The problem is there is a tiny group, a fanatical group, by the name of Boko Haram. They are the ones who have started a cycle of attacks destruction and killing in Nigeria.”

Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group, has been responsible for more than 690 killings in 2012 alone.

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