Of Ozubulu massacre and the church

Anambra church massacre
Massacre of innocent worshippers at St. Philip’s church, Ozubulu, Anambra

As a little girl, one of the first things I learnt at the children’s sunday school was the 10 commandments and one of those commandments made  an impact in my life, one I may never be able to separate myself from: “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” Consequent on this mandate, Sundays were the most peaceful days in my home growing up as I checked my penchant for mischief and verbal wars with my siblings on the Sabbath.

However, growing up did not change my Sabbath tradition or the reverence I accord the day of worship. For that reason, I do something excruciatingly difficult on Sundays. Like Macduff, the Thane of Fife, who was ripped out of his mother’s womb, I painstakingly remove my mobile devices from my bosom, stripping myself off them like a woman frisked as I enter the sanctuary on the Sabbath. This, for me, is a way of keeping the Sabbath holy by shutting off the incessant buzzing, chiming and beeping of the devices which may tempt me into sullying the day with the ‘unholy’ urge to look through updates or read through comments.

However, once the last Amen is said, I dash off like an exorcised fiend to pick up my tools and deal with the troll of messages, calls and news updates that I may have missed. So, on one of such Sabbaths, my dash was interrupted by an acquaintance whose visage bore a horrified look. “This country is not safe at all, imagine what just happened in Anambra,” he lamented.

I was taken aback but pried further. With the look on my face, he understood that I was lost in my own labyrinth. So, he slowly pushed his mobile device onto my open palms. What I saw that Sunday, will not be obliterated from my memory in years to come. As a matter of fact, it is burnt into my grey matter. Like an orangutan, forsaken in the belly of the evil forest, I wailed in my spirit. I wailed for souls lost, lives wasted and cringed at the crassness of the perpetrators. Quickly, I dismissed the interrupter and like a whirlwind, swept my way home to gather more information on the catastrophe.

What happened in Ozubulu? This question I have asked myself for the umpteenth time. How can people, brazenly pick up arms, besiege a sanctuary on the Sabbath day and untimely harvest over a dozen of people with the Grimm’s sickle while placing the yoke of severe injuries on several others. What has this country degenerated into? While the terrorists in the North are yet to be squashed and the killings in that region stopped, we have in our hands murder in the church at broad daylight!

On 6 August, 2017, worshipers were killed during a church service at St. Philips Catholic Church, Ozubulu area of Anambra State. According to reports, the church was invaded by unknown gunmen who shot indiscriminately at the congregants, killing over 12 people and leaving others wounded.

According to the Parish Priest, Fr. Jude Onwuasor, “a man wearing black Polo T-Shirt came inside the church and started shooting recklessly. There was confusion and after looking at the problem, there was nothing one could do except to scamper for safety.

“After the first round of shootings, there was a second round. I guess it was during the second round that some people were shot and killed.” What could have been the reason for such madness, I have asked myself even in my subconscious in the past few weeks but all my diggings, keeps leading me to the same path, a path I never would have wanted to tread but am compelled to.

According to reports that filtered in after the Ozubulu massacre, the gruesome incident was an outplay of an alleged drug war between some alleged drug barons from Ozubulu, who were fighting over a debt incurred from a drug deal. It was reported that the gunmen went hunting for a certain man but on meeting his absence at his home, proceeded to the church, where he was supposed to be having a thanksgiving service, to kill him. An elderly worshipper said to be his father was killed in the rain of bullets and other worshippers were doomed to a hasty transition in the process. One would wonder what gave such fiends the balls to storm the sanctuary and desecrate the holy ground, but the answers are not farfetched.

After all, the church was built by the man in question, an alleged drug baron so the gunmen apparently felt at home! Now this is the path I detest to tread but the happenings, like I said earlier, have compelled me to anchor my ship at this harbour.  True, the holy writ admonished expressly “touch not my anointed and do my prophet no harm.” I may not be the quintessential follower of the Creator, but I work really hard to decipher good from evil. Consequently, I have never sailed on the waters of disrespect, particularly of prophets or dock at the port where churches are maligned. The reason for this is contrived and here is my postulate: doing either of those would mean condemning my soul to an early immortality that would be attributed to walking off the plank like on the Flying Dutchman.

However, the hard questions must be asked or we may all someday, sans any warning, answer the untimely call of Hade’s Oboe like the innocents of Ozubulu. A man comes from a foreign land and donates a church building; does the church bother about investigating the source of his wealth? No, he simply becomes a vessel of blessing and is bathed with prayers and more prayers. Another man shows up from nowhere with a key to one of the latest automobiles and drops it on the altar. What does the priest do? Bless you my son, may you continue to prosper! All we preach about is prosperity, seeds, project offerings, donations and more seeds… What happened to the teachings about the reality of heaven, salvation and the fiery flames of hell? What happened to astounding actions of giving when the disciples sold all they had so they could share their belongings with others? Remember, the disciples didn’t call themselves Christians, the world did! They saw in them a distinguishing factor but what does the world see in today’s church? An arena for wealth display, a place to make huge donations, where the big givers get special prayers, where your donation equals the blessing invoked on you by the prophet?

Though the man alleged to be the reason of the attack declared thus: “I have never been arrested or convicted anywhere in the world. My businesses are legitimate businesses, duly registered. Apart from warehousing and wholesale of goods, I am also a contractor involved in the construction of roads and infrastructure in Nigeria.”

It is important that the church is distant from such controversies. “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted?…,” says the first book of the new testament.


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