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Nigerian diocese mourns murder of kidnapped monk

The Diocese of Ilorin in north-central Nigeria is grieving the murder of a monk who was abducted from his monastery at Eruku earlier this month.

Br. Godwin Eze’s death was confirmed by two other monks who were kidnapped with him, Anthony Eze and Peter Olarewaju. The other two monks were recently released and are currently hospitalized.

Diocesan administrator Fr. Anselm Lawani said in an Oct. 23 statement that he is “saddened by the news of the gruesome murder.”

“May God grant eternal rest to his soul, consolation to his immediate family members and to all of us who are left to mourn his passing,” he said, asking in particular for the maternal intercession of Mary, consoler of the afflicted.

At the same time, Lawani expressed gratitude to God for the safe release of the other two monks who were kidnapped with Br. Godwin. He thanked the people of the diocese for their prayers for the brothers.

On Oct. 17, the diocese said, a group of bandits, presumed to be Fulani herdsmen, attacked the Benedictine monastery in Eruku around 1:00 a.m.

They kidnapped three of the religious brothers: novice Godwin Eze and postulants Anthony Eze and Peter Olarewaju.

Fr. Joseph Ekesiobi, OSB, a former novice master at the monastery, told The Pillar that the bandits “used their guns to destroy the doors of the monastery.”

“The monastery does not have a fence due to the large expanse of land,” he explained. “We have been living peacefully there for decades, so we didn’t expect that that would happen.”

Ekesiobi said the two monks who were released confirmed that Br. Godwin had been shot, and his body was thrown into the river.

His family members and some of the religious brothers, are looking for the body and have sent a message to nearby villages asking for their assistance in recovering it.

The former novice master said the brothers had to evacuate the monastery, because the bandits had threatened to return.

“This was also done to help the brothers recover from the trauma,” he added.

Moving forward, Ekesiobi, said, the brothers “are determined to secure funds to [build a] fence [around] the monastery so that [they] can concentrate on the monastic life.”

The priest said the kidnapping and murder have affected the entire community surrounding the monastery.

“This is unprecedented – it has not happened before,” he emphasized.

“The entire Eruku community is enveloped in fear. People no longer go to the farm. That is the situation, just now.”

Across Nigeria, the kidnapping of clerics is on the rise — 30 priests were kidnapped in Nigeria in 2022, while at least 40 were killed in the same year.

Last year, a Benedictine monastery in the Diocese of Idah – the sister monastery to the one in Ilorin – saw a similar attack. Kidnappers scaled a wall and abducted three brothers.

Earlier this year, Fr. Stephen Ojapah, a Nigerian priest who was held captive for 33 days in 2022, launched an organization to help Nigerians receive mental health care to cope with the trauma of terrorism in their country.

Ojapah noted that his own month-long experience of being kidnapped “has left me and others with deep trauma.”

He pointed to the experience of post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD, which can affect kidnapping victims.

“Many are in dire need,” he said in August.

A year after gaining his freedom, the 39-year-old priest is now working to build O-Trauma Victims Initiative (OTVI), a project he explained is “for Nigerians help us deal with the trauma that comes with banditry and other forms of violence.”

To respond to these needs, OTVI offers medical care, trauma counseling, and legal aid to victims of kidnapping in Nigeria. It also provides vocational training and economic programs to help kidnapping victims recover financially. 

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