Seminarian burnt alive amid Catholic church attack in Nigeria

(Photo: Unsplash/Ovinuchi Ejiohuo)

The house of a Catholic priest inside a parish was set ablaze in a suspected terrorist attack in Nigeria's Kaduna state, resulting in the death of a young seminarian trapped in the fire, according to local reports.

The incident occurred late last week at St. Rachael's Parish in the Fadan Kamantan area, near a major highway and a military checkpoint, Nigerian media outlet The Punch reported. The outlet added that two priests managed to escape the blaze, but the seminarian, identified as Naam Ngofe Danladi, perished.

The military arrived only after the assailants fled and the church was destroyed, the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern said in a statement.

Kaduna Gov. Uba Sani vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.

"I am deeply saddened by the attack on Fadan Kamantan Parish," a statement by Sani's Chief Press Secretary, Mohammed Lawal Shehu, reads.

Rev. John Joseph Hayab, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Kaduna state Chapter, expressed deep sorrow.

"What is disheartening about this particular attack is the fact that the place of attack is just by the Kaduna – Kafanchan Major highway with a military checkpoint not far from the Parish," Hayab said in a statement.

He also noted that the attack took place at the heart of Kamantan town, raising questions about the effectiveness of local security measures.

The senator representing Kaduna South, Sunday Katung, called for a one-month military operation in the state's forests.

"I unequivocally condemn this horrific terrorist attack that claimed the life of our young seminarian," Katung said in a statement. He urged security agencies to carry out an intensive operation to degrade the bandits and kidnappers in the area.

The Kaduna government is in the process of recruiting over 7,000 individuals into the Kaduna State Vigilante Services to address ongoing security challenges.

"We invite the Governor of Kaduna State and all relevant stakeholders to immediately swing into action," Hayab added. He emphasized that security is everyone's business and expressed disappointment that the criminals operated unchallenged.

The church representative said they had been warned of the attack and had contacted authorities, but help arrived too late.

Meanwhile, the remains of the deceased seminarian have been deposited at the mortuary, as reported by The Punch.

The persecution of Christians in Nigeria is particularly severe, with 90% of the over 5,600 Christians killed for their faith worldwide last year being Nigerian, according to persecution watchdog group Open Doors.

In its latest International Religious Freedom Report, the U.S. State Department noted a spike in deadly violence impacting both Christians and Muslims in Nigeria. The NGO Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project reported there were 3,953 civilian deaths from violence across the country in 2022.

"There continued to be frequent violent incidents, particularly in the northern part of the country, affecting both Muslims and Christians, resulting in numerous deaths," the State Department's report on Nigeria said.

"Kidnappings and armed robbery by criminal gangs increased in the South as well as the North West, the South, and the South East. The international Christian organization Open Doors stated that terrorist groups, militant herdsmen, and criminal gangs were responsible for large numbers of fatalities, and Christians were particularly vulnerable."

Nigerian Christians and human rights groups have voiced concerns for years that the violence carried out against predominantly Christian farming communities in the Middle Belt states by radicalized herdsmen has reached genocidal levels, as thousands have been killed in recent years.

However, the Nigerian government has rejected claims that the violence is influenced by religion and insists it's part of decades-old farmer-herder clashes. Data cited by the U.S. State Department suggests that violence targeting Christians accounts for a small fraction of the killings.

Courtesy of The Christian Post.