By Emmanuel Antswen
It was a mourning Sunday as many churches in Makurdi Benue State, complied with the directive of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to protest the killings in different parts of the country by herdsmen and those under the captivity of Boko Haram.
Christian faithful wore black and white attires as a mark of mourning for the murdered catholic priests and parishioners of St Ignatius Church, Mbalom, Gwer East Local Government Area.
It would be recalled that two Catholic priests, Rev. Father Joseph Gor and Rev. Father Felix Tyolaha, as well as 16 other worshippers were killed at the 5 a.m. mass of the church on April 24.
A correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), who went round some churches in Makurdi, reports that most worshippers, regardless of denomination, wore black and white dresses to church.
NAN also reports that the worshippers held peaceful protests within their churches to denounce the acts of barbarism and gruesome killings and other attacks on innocent citizens.
They held placards with inscriptions such as “Enough of the killings”, “We want peace in our state”, “No more bloodshed”, “Lord, what have we done to deserve this.’’ among others.
At the NKST church in Iyortyer, Makurdi, NAN sighted the worshippers carrying placards and marching peacefully within the premises of the worship house.
Speaking to newsmen, Pastor Frederick Ikyaan of NKST Church at High Level area of the metropolis, said the Christian community was mourning.
“We are saddened by these killings and we want the world to know our displeasure over these acts,’’ he said.
He said that the dress code was reminiscent of the tradition of the church in wearing sack clothes when faced with such calamities.
“In the olden days, Christians wore sack clothes when confronted with calamities of monstrous nature but since we no longer have such clothes, we wear black and white to show our grief and anguish.
“Our concern is to express our displeasure and feelings to the immediate society, our leaders in Nigeria and President Buhari, without mincing words that we are offended by the ongoing killings in the state and the country,’’ he said.
He said that with the killing of the priests and worshippers, it was very clear that the invaders were not after the green vegetation but the soul of the state.
The cleric said that the killing of the priests had further deepened their faith and beliefs system, adding that no amount of intimidation would stop them from practising their faith.
He said that the priests and faithful killed had become martyrs of the herdsmen invasion in Benue, adding that they were the seeds sown by the church.
Also speaking, the Associate Pastor of NKST Church, Iortyer, Rev. Terwugwa Akaawude, appealed to the Federal Government to protect lives and property of the citizens.
On his part Rev. Father Patrick Odeh of St. Juliana Catholic Mission, Bebe, High Level, accused Nigerian politicians of playing games with human lives.
Odeh said politicians were bereft of conscience in handling such sensitive matters as the killings, adding that the death of the two priests had united the church and made it stronger.
The cleric, who said the priests and worshippers died in active service, described them as” gallant soldiers who never lost their faith.’’
He said they would be rewarded in eternity by God.
NAN reports that a combined team of security operatives were seen patrolling the state capital, while the church services were ongoing.
Read also: Killing of priests: CAN plans protest, prayers