(Vatican Radio) In Nigeria, three Catechists of the Diocese of Maiduguri died, this week on Monday, when two female suicide bombers detonated their vests outside a Church in Pulka. The bombs killed the three Catechists and injured several Catechumens waiting inside a Church. The Catechumens were waiting to be interviewed in readiness for the Sacrament of Confirmation. Maiduguri’s Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme was due to visit the Church in Pulka on Wednesday, 13 December.
Catechists Joseph Naga, 56 years had worked as a Catechist for 36 yrs; John Manye 38 for 11 years and a student-Catechist identified as Patrick was 27years.
According to Fr. Gideon Obasogie of the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri, two young women accosted and hugged Joseph, the Catechist. The other two Catechists, John and Patrick, in the vicinity became concerned with what was happening. They rushed to rescue Joseph. As they drew near, the women detonated their bombs.
“One of our priests, Fr. Emmanuel Jatua, a priest appointed to assist the returnees in Pulka, narrated to us how two suicide bombers- young women of between 19 and 29 years old- rushed to hug the Head-Catechist Joseph, as he was about to enter the local Church to interview some Catechumens preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation. The Bishop of Maiduguri was scheduled to visit the Pulka community this week on Wednesday, 13 December,” Fr. Gideon told the Africa Service of Vatican Radio. He added, “Little did the Catechists know that the women were suicide bombers. As soon as the other two Catechists drew close, the bombers detonated their devices, killing themselves and the three catechists. Also injured in the explosion were dozens of Catechumens who were inside the Church. Many were rushed to nearby clinics. So far no further deaths have been recorded from this tragic incident,” said Fr. Obasogie.
The Head-Catechist, Joseph was married and with eleven children while John is survived by a wife and five children. The younger of the three, Patrick was unmarried.
“The Pulka community was joyfully preparing for the pastoral visit of the Bishop but have now been thrown into this sadness. They are scared, but they say they will stand for Christ and that the death of their Catechists shall not be in vain,” Fr. Obasaogie said.
Bishop Doeme of Maiduguri Diocese has asked the faithful in the Diocese to pray for the repose of the deceased servants of the Church. He has also appealed for more security to the Pulka Church community, particularly during this Christmas season.
The Catholic community in Pulka consists of about 9,680 Catholics. Many Churches in the Diocese of Maiduguri now hold prayers and Holy Mass under the watchful eyes of vigilantes looking out for suicide bombers.
Gwoza Local Government Authority (LGA) of Borno State in north-east Nigeria is a border town which is about 135 kilometres south-east of Maiduguri. According to reliefweb.int, the large-scale forced displacement of populations has devastated livelihoods in Pulka.
With the Nigerian army re-gaining control of most of the north-east, populations are slowly starting to return, especially since the start of 2017. Nevertheless, returnees, some of them from neighbouring Cameroon refugee camps, are coming back to a precarious humanitarian and tenuous security situation.
(Fr. Paul Samasumo, Vatican Radio)