Yesterday, Sunday 5 June, unknown gunmen attacked the St Francis Catholic Church in the town of Owo, Ondo State in southwestern Nigeria as members gathered to celebrate Pentecost. They killed an estimated 50 people and abducted the presiding priest and an unknown number of attendees.
Police spokesperson for Ondo state, Funmilayo Ibukun Odunlami told Reuters the gunmen shot at people outside and inside the church building, killing and injuring worshippers. According to eyewitnesses the attackers also detonated explosives. The attackers then abducted the presiding priest and some other church goers, according to a BBC report.
So far, there is no official death toll, but Adelegbe Timileyin, who represents the Owo area in Nigeria’s lower legislative chamber, told media at least 50 people had been killed, though others put the figure higher. State politician Ogunmolasuyi Oluwole said the dead included many children.
A doctor at a hospital who declined to be named said at least 50 bodies had been brought to two hospitals. Dozens of wounded sought medical attention, overwhelming hospital staff.
Ondo state Governor Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, who visited the scene of the attack and some of the injured at the hospital, described Sunday’s incident as “a great massacre” that should not be allowed to happen again.
No one has so far claimed responsibility for the attack. While most sources said a motive is not clear, Adeyemi Olayemi, a lawmaker in Ondo, told the Guardian the attack is believed to be the work of ethnic Fulani terrorists, sometimes referred to as bandits, who have staged relentless attacks predominantly in northern Nigeria but also in other parts of the country.
Olayemi said the attack was likely to have been in retaliation for recent restrictions by the state government on grazing in Ondo, including in forests where the assailants have carried out attacks. The restrictions were adopted after an upsurge in kidnappings in the state.
“We have enjoyed improved security since herdsmen were driven away from our forests by this administration,” Olayemi said. “This is a reprisal attack to send a diabolical message to the governor.”
Open Doors is investigating these claims.
While attacks like these are generally very rare in the south of Nigeria, such targeted attacks have been meted out against Northern Nigerian Christians with near impunity.
For the families of the victims of the Owo church massacre. Pray that the Lord Jesus will comfort their hearts and help them in these difficult times.
For the speedy and safe release of the priest and congregants.
For diligent action by authorities to identify perpetrators and bring them to justice.
For healing for all who suffered physical and emotional injuries during the attack.
That the Lord Jesus will help the Church in Nigeria to continue to stand firm in the faith despite increasing targeted attacks.
Get our free glow-in-the-dark World Watch List Map and find out more about the places where faith costs the most.Get your map
Every Monday night at 7pm we'll be praying one prayer for one minute for the one in seven Christians around the world who face persecution. Set an alarm and tune in…Join us…
Raise money by getting sponsored to lose something you love for a short time. Sign up and we'll send you a fundraising pack…Sign up
Imagine getting a letter from a Christian on the other side of the world who'd heard about you and was praying for you - encouraging right? Well, you can send encouragement now to young Christians facing persecution.Do that now
Pray for Pastor Wasantha* and members of his church who are facing threats and intimidation…
“The world knows how the Taliban are against women’s education and women working outside.” Pray for change now…
See how your support is helping children in Iraq and Syria get back to school and find healing from the trauma’s of war…
Alima has known rejection for most her life, but in Jesus she found hope and protection…
Your prayers are needed following yet another awful attack on Christians in Nigeria, in which a student was killed.
A summer camp for children and teenagers run by christians in Central Asia was raided by police and the camp leader was arrested and fined…
Pray now as almost 3,000 people have died and hundreds more have been injured in the disaster…
“We will not give up our faith; we believe that God will continue to reveal Himself to us and to these people…”
Aasif bravely led more than 30 people to believe in Jesus, but in the end he paid the ultimate price for his faith…