The Cardinal of the Abuja Catholic Diocese, John Onaiyekan, has called on Nigerians to rise above religious, political and ethnic divides to save the country from drifting into anarchy.
Mr Onaiyekan gave the advice on Tuesday in his sermon at the burial of two catholic priests in Benue State.
The two Reverend Fathers, Felix Tyolaha and Joseph Gor, were killed during an attack by suspected herders last month on their church at Ayati, an agrarian hilly village in the outskirts of Ikpayongo in Gwer East local Government Council of Benue State.
Mr Onaiyekan said killings across the country must stop and called on well meaning Nigerians to unite in fighting the great evil that had befallen the country.
The cleric warned: “This must not be politicised. The nation is in a state of emergency. We demand for synergy; division, especially on tribal lines will only throw our nation to anarchy.”
He called on the federal government to act decisively to end the spate of killings across the country.
The cardinal called on the people to be vigilant and be their “brother’s keeper”.
He warned that if murderers are allowed to continue killing without checkmating them it will come to a time when people will begin to use other means of self defense.
Mr Onaiyekan called for forgiveness and warned against reprisals and said the souls of the righteous were in the hands of God.
He appealed for calm and advised the Christian faithful to show appreciation to God in all situations.
“This is our hope which is based on our trust in God,” the cardinal said.
He described the death of the priests and the others as a “horrific massacre which will not be forgotten for a long time.”
The cardinal said the killed priests and their worshippers were martyrs of the church.
Earlier, the Bishop of Makurdi Diocese, Wilfred Anagbe, said the decision to bury the victims of Saint Ignatius Parish, Mbalom at the ‘Se Sugh Maria Pilgrimage Centre, Ayati, was to honor them as martyrs of the church.
He said the barbaric acts perpetrated against the victims would attract the wrath of God and lamented the act of desecrating the church of God.
“If our places of worship are no longer safe, then where can we run to in this country,” Mr Anagbe said.
He expressed optimism that their blood would restore peace and end the killings in the state and across the country.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that sympathisers, mostly Catholics, dressed in their societal attires besieged the Ayati prayer ground as early as 7a.m to secure seats for the historic event.
Security around the burial site was tight as only identified dignitaries apart from the clergy, were allowed entry.