I was still saying Mass when I heard the explosions. I was in the sanctuary, putting incense in the thurible, preparing for the procession outside the church, when I heard two loud noises and saw my panicked parishioners running in different directions.
Someone ran to me and shouted: “Father, unknown gunmen!” I don’t know how many of them there were – some say six, others say four – but I do know they were organized. Some of the attackers disguised themselves as parishioners and worshiped with us during Mass, knowing the whole time they intended to kill us.
As bullets filled the air, I thought only of how to save my parishioners. Some of them managed to lock the entrance door and I urged people to move into the sacristy. Once in the inner part of the sacristy, I could not move: children surrounded me, and adults clung to me. I shielded them just as a hen shields her chicks. My flock, especially the children, cried out: “Father, please save us – Father, pray!” I told them not to worry, as God would do something.
There were three or four more explosions, one after the other inside the Church and there was sporadic shooting of guns by the attackers. It was a well-planned attack that lasted about 20-25 minutes.
Once the message came that the attackers had gone, we left the sacristy. Dead bodies were strewn across the church and there were many injured. My spirit was deeply troubled.
With the help of parishioners who could drive, we immediately began to take our injured brothers and sisters to St. Louis Hospital and the Federal Medical Center. Since then, I have visited the wounded, praying with them, administering the Sacrament of the Sick and encouraging them to keep hope alive.
The world has turned away from Nigeria. A genocide is taking place, but no one cares. Nearby security personnel and police failed to come to our rescue, even though the attack lasted at least 20 minutes.
Culled from Persecuted and Forgotten?: A Report on Christians Oppressed for their Faith 2020-22