Nigeria’s Catholic bishops have called on each of the nation’s dioceses to organize peaceful processions May 22 in solidarity with the funeral for two priests and 17 others killed in an attack by Fulani herdsmen on a parish church.
The herdsmen stormed a daily Mass at Saint Ignatius Church on the morning of April 24, killing Fathers Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha, along with others in the congregation.
Last Sunday’s Mass announcements throughout Nigeria encouraged Catholics and all “men and women of goodwill” to join in these upcoming rosary processions and prayer rallies around the country.
The state governor of Benue, where the attack took place, has also declared May 22 as a work holiday to honor those who died, according to Nigeria’s PM News.
Last year, nomadic Fulani herdsmen killed more than 140 Christians in central Nigeria’s Benue state, a World Watch report by Open Doors found.
Nigeria’s bishops have been vocal critics of President Muhammadu Buhari’s response to the violent attacks by nomadic herdsmen.
In a statement issued in response to the April 24 attack, the Nigerian bishops' conference called on Buhari to step down because “he has failed in his primary duty of protecting the lives of the Nigerian citizens.”
“How can the Federal Government stand back while its security agencies deliberately turn a blind eye to the cries and wails of helpless and armless citizens who remain sitting ducks in their homes, highway and now, even in their sacred places of worship?” the bishops continued.
The northern Fulani herdsmen have been moving south due to the desertification of the soil in northern Nigeria, and have violently clashed with the farmers in the region, as the cattle have overtaken some farmed fields.
Some, including the bishops, have asserted that terrorist groups are embedded among the nomadic herdsmen.
The bishops met with Buhari Feb. 8, urging him to address the deadly violence, as well as the kidnappings in Nigeria.
“Herdsmen may be under pressure to save their livestock and economy, but this is never to be done at the expense of other people’s lives and means of livelihood,” the bishops told Buhari.
The bishops concluded, “As the voice of the voiceless, we shall therefore continue to highlight the plight of our people.”