Madalla, Nigeria : Bishop cancels New Year night mass

The Catholic Bishop of Minna Diocese, Most Rev. Martin Igwe Uzoukwu, yesterday at a press conference organised by the Director of Social Communications of the Catholic Diocese of Minna in St. Theresa's Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger State, revealed that members of the church have developed fear and consequently deserted church activities. Uzoukwu also informed that the traditional New Year night mass which usually holds at 12 mid-night has been cancelled. In its place, parishioners would congregate on Saturday, December 31, between 4-6pm for mass in order to avoid the ugly incidence of the last Christmas Day bombing. When asked to confirm the death toll arising from the deadly blast, Rev. Uzoukwu said: I cannot count. I cannot. How can I count dead bodies who have been dismembered by bomb? You see one leg here, you see another there.

I wasn't in my right frame of my mind to count. It is not even possible to count. I do not have the figure of those who lost their lives to the last Xmas day bombing. I do not have the figure. I do not. The Catholic Bishop of Minna, battled tears to narrate the extent of damage done to the Christian community by the deadly Islamic sect, Boko Haram in the early hours of the last Xmas day. His moving words threw the church members who had gathered to welcome the Bishop into their midst and attend the press conference into a temporary fit of mourning.

But he quickly controlled himself as he did not go further on what he saw in various hospitals where the bomb blast victims were either hospitalised or kept for burial. Members of the deadly Boko Haram sect, it will be recalled, had detonated a high caliber bomb in front of St. Theresa's Catholic Church located along Madalla/ Suleja Road, few minutes to 8:00am, killing not less than 40 members of the church, who were coming out from special morning mass on the Xmas Day and injuring scores of others. Even though he was bombarded with questions by his parishioners on what to do when they are faced with similar situation in future, he refused to endorse reprisal attack against anybody or group of people, saying the Bible which is the Christiansstandard did not teach that. But he said yesterday that security of the nation at this level should be everybody's concern regardless of whether one is a Christian or a Muslim.

He advised that Nigerians should not only pray for the unity of the country and peace but should also expose those who are behind the orgy of violence in the country since they live amongst us . Uzoukwu who quoted from both the Holy Bible and Holy Quran also urged both Christians and Muslims to pray for the country for at least one hour every day. Although he commended the response of the Federal Government agencies to the attack suffered by the parishioners, he nonetheless urged the relevant authorities to retool the nation' security agencies which he said are not adequately equipped to face the security challenges of the moment. He nonetheless described the bomb explosion that rocked the church as an act of terrorism against Catholic faithful even as he called on Islamic clerics to condemn in very strong terms the deadly Boko Haram sect, which has since claimed responsibility for the heinous act of December 25.

He regretted that the church appears to be the ready casualty as St. Augustine's Catholic Church, Angwan Kuje, Minna was torched during the postelection crisis that engulfed some parts of the north. While urging both the Federal and Niger State governments to compensate families of the victims, Bishop Uzoukwu challenged security operatives to adopt pro-active measures in nipping crime in the bud, rather than the boring tradition of allowing criminals to unleash mayhem on innocent citizens before taking belated action. He said: I call on all my peace-loving Muslim friends to condemn publicly this act against us and the entire people of Niger State. This is not the first act of violence against the Christian community in Niger State.

Source: National Mirror

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