The Bishop of Nigeria’s Catholic Diocese of Orlu has condemned the Easter Sunday attack against innocent civilians in Imo State of the Southeastern region of Nigeria.

Newsroom (20/04/2022 10:00 AM Gaudium Press) Local reports in Nigeria indicate that “many people” were feared killed on Easter Sunday when gunmen attacked Ihioma Community in Orlu Local Government Area of Imo State. 

Bishop Augustine Tochukwu Ukwuoma expressed solidarity with those who lost their loved ones in the attack on Imo State, a crime “gradually becoming a symbolism for evil and darkness.”

“For our dear Orlu land that is gradually becoming a symbolism for evil and darkness, for Imo State and for Nigeria in general, we pray for the return of peace and tranquillity,” he lamented. 

The Nigerian Catholic Bishop, in turn, decried the events: “as darkness is overcome by the Paschal Light of Easter, may violence and crime give way to harmony and serenity! May the glory of Easter dispel all darkness in our lives and illuminate us always with the salvific power of the Risen Christ!”

The Attack

A resident told PREMIUM TIMES that heavy shootings began when military personnel engaged the gunmen in a battle.

“The gunmen became enraged and started shooting sporadically. They were in a gun battle with the soldiers from Sunday morning till evening,” the source said.

The gunmen, believed to be members of the Eastern Security Network (ESN), were part of the militant wing of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Apparently, they were on a manhunt for members of the rival Ebubeagu Security Network, who reportedly arrived in the area on April 16.

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The gunmen, it was learnt, were infuriated by the presence of the army in the area.

Another resident told the local paper, “They killed so many people. It started while we were in church, so we had to run back home.”

Bishop appeals

In his April 19 statement, Bishop Ukwuoma finds it regrettable that efforts to restore stability in the Nigerian States experiencing insurgency have proved to be futile.

“It seems that despite all our numerous interventions to find solutions to the quagmire that has engulfed our Land, especially our beloved Orlu and environs, including our collective call for prayer for the restoration of peace in the region under the Diocese of Orlu, the violence that has spread through Orlu has continued relentlessly.”

Narrating events of the fateful day, Bishop Ukwuoma confirmed that “on Easter Sunday, April 17, 2022, while the Diocese, united with Christians all over the world, was commemorating the Holiest Day in the Church’s Calendar, the Solemnity of the Easter that celebrates the Resurrection from the dead of our Lord Jesus Christ, which in itself is a protest against death, all threats and agents of death, a rash of violence swept through the popular banana junction, Amaifeke and Okporo resulting in the loss of innocent lives and property.

The duties of our Pastoral Office as Chief Shepherd compel us to speak up again and condemn this continuous reign of terror in strong and unequivocal terms,” he stated.

Moreover, the Local Ordinary of Orlu further appeals for an end to the violence he says has engulfed the many Nigerian States. “When must all these come to an end? Must this reign of violence, bloodshed, wanton destruction of property that has forced our people to live in a constant state of fear and anxiety both at home and on the highway continue unabated?” the prelate questioned. 

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“Has enough innocent blood not been shed in our land that until recent times has remained an abode of peace and a safe haven for strangers and all sorts of refugees? Enough is Enough.”

Violence is not a solution

Bishop Ukwuoma warns that grievances cannot be solved by unending violence against civilians. He underscores the need for people to find better solutions to their problems.

“Whatever goal anyone wants to achieve is not worth this wanton and indiscriminate shedding of the blood of our innocent citizens. The time has come for all to sheath their swords and to engage in seeking for constructive ways out of this quagmire that is almost threatening our existence as a people and as a society,” the Nigerian Catholic Bishop. “Violence and more brutal force don’t appear to be the solution to this problem. In light of the Easter Mystery that celebrates the victory of life over death, of love over hatred, of forgiveness over the thirst for revenge and vengeance, we call upon all state and non-state actors to reexamine their consciences and think of the pain they cause families by their behavior.”

Bishop Ukwuoma, at the helm of the Orlu Diocese since his Episcopal Ordination in June 2008, also addressed the victims: “We deeply commensurate with all the victims of this sad incident and many such incidents that have become our regular experiences. To those who are dead, we will continue to pray for them to rest in the Lord. May the good Lord accept the shedding of their blood as a vicarious offering for the cleansing of our land! To those who have been left orphans and widows, we continue to extend our pastoral charity and concern and to pray that they be consoled,” he concluded. 

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(VIA ACI Africa) 

Compiled by Raju Hasmukh