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News / Thoughts

Nigeria: At least 50 killed in church attack

By Dan Etheridge

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.

Why did this happen?

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.

Pray now…

  • 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 healing for all who suffered physical and emotional injuries during the attack.
  • For the speedy and safe release of the priest and congregants.
  • That the Lord Jesus will help the Church in Nigeria to continue to stand firm in the faith despite increasing targeted attacks.
  • For diligent action by authorities to identify perpetrators and bring them to justice.


Four things you can do now:

1. Learn more and pray: 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 here…

2. Pray regularly: 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…

3. Choose to Lose: Raise money by getting sponsored to lose something you love for a short time. Sign up and we’ll send you a fundraising pack…

4. Send a message of hope: 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 here now…

The Author
Dan works part time with Open Doors, mainly sorting out the comms stuff for youth and students. In his other life he's a freelance writer and graphic designer who likes collecting records and sitting on beaches looking at waves.

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