June 6, 2022

Owo Church Massacre: Nigerian government must guarantee freedom of religion as enshrined in the Constitution

Washington, DC – On June 5, 2022, Pentecost Sunday, gunmen armed with explosives opened fire in St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Owo town killing at least 50 people and wounding many more. Ondo State is largely known as one of the more peaceful states in Nigeria. In response to the massacre, the Catholic Diocese of Ondo’s Directorate of Social Communications issued a press release calling for “peace and normalcy to return.” The identities of the perpetrators are still unknown and currently no terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Insecurity in Nigeria continues to grow. In February of 2021, Catholic Bishops’ issued a warning that action was needed in their letter “We Must Pull back from the Brink of Collapse.” The recent example of religious intolerance in the beating death and burning of Deborah Samuel, accused of blasphemy, shows how mob violence is undermining greater religious freedom.

Dr. Steven Nabieu Rogers, Executive Director of the Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN), and an expert in African political-economy made the following statement:

  • “This wrong, reprehensible, outrageous, and objectionable act turned a place of worship into a theater of death with no provocation and for no legitimate reason.
  • “The Nigerian government has a sacred duty to protect the lives and liberty of every Nigerian regardless of religious belief as guaranteed by the Constitution. Every Nigerian deserves the right to worship freely without fear of threats to their lives, livelihood, and families.
  • “As general elections near, our concern grows with the rising state of insecurity throughout the country. Nigeria’s religious diversity must not threaten the Constitutional right to freedom of belief, cherished by many Nigerians.
  • “We call on the Nigerian government to apprehend and bring to justice the perpetrators of this heinous act and we call on all religious leaders to condemn these acts and work with authorities to prevent the rising spate of sectarian violence.

Sr. Eucharia Madueke, SNDdeN, AFJN’s Women’s Empowerment Coordinator who lead workshops in Abuja, Nigeria, last month and who has been working with women and youth in Nigeria on maintaining peace:

  • “It is heartbreaking that the land of green and white has been drenched with the blood of the innocent. These killings in St. Francis Catholic Church is the most recent tragic example of the insecurity permeating the county.
  • “Nigeria will never be safe for anybody, including leadership, until those who have the power to stop this evil, start protecting the people they serve and stop playing politics with their lives. This is not the time of statements and empty words, now is the time to match words with action.

Read the Catholic Diocese’s June 6th release “Attack on St. Francis Catholic Church, Owo, Ondo State Nigeria
Read the February 2021 Catholic Bishops’ letter “We Must Pull back from the Brink of Collapse
Read AFJN’s Press Release on the February 2021 Bishops Letter