A Catholic seminarian was burnt to death during an attack on the rectory of his parish in north central Nigeria on Thursday night.
Assailants stormed the rectory of St. Raphael parish in the Diocese of Kafanchan at around 8 p.m. Thursday night, diocesan officials said.
After breaking through the house gate, the attackers began shooting and forced their way into the house. They failed to gain access to the pastor’s room and then set his car on fire, causing a nearby set of solar batteries to explode, a diocesan official told The Pillar.
The pastor, Fr. Emmanuel Okolo, and his assistant, the newly ordained Fr. Monday Noah, escaped, but seminarian Na'aman Danlami was trapped inside the burning building and died of asphyxiation.
Bishop Julius Kundi of Kafanchan confirmed to The Pillar that the 25-year-old seminarian’s body has been recovered.
“The attackers were aiming to kidnap the parish priest. When they failed in their attempt to enter the father's house, they set it on fire,” the bishop said.
“The two priests were able to escape but, terribly, the seminarian was burned inside.”
Kundi criticized the local authorities for failing to intervene during the attack.
“The assault lasted more than an hour, but there was no reaction or support from the military forces,” he said. “A kilometer away there is a checkpoint, but there was a total absence of reaction.”
In a statement released Friday night, the bishop urged the people of the diocese to remember, even as they grieve, that nothing can separate them from the love of God.
“Let us prove to our enemies with all their arsenals that they have failed again,” he said. “Let everyone hear our songs of praise and thanksgivings…”
It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack. However, kidnapping is a common crime in Nigeria, with upwards of 3,000 reports of individuals being kidnapped annually in recent years.
Kidnapping and other acts of violence against Christians have become particularly common in the northern part of the country, where both Boko Haram militants and Fulani herdsmen have carried out attacks, often with impunity.
A number of priests are currently missing in the country, following kidnappings several months ago.
In January, seminarian Michael Nnadi was killed after being abducted along with three other individuals from a seminary in Kaduna.
Last month, Fr. Paul Sanogo and seminarian Melchior Maharini were kidnapped from their community, the Missionaries of Africa, in the Diocese of Minna.
They were held captive for three weeks, during which time they were reportedly beaten and mistreated, before being released.
The Catholic bishops of Nigeria have repeatedly criticized the government for its reluctance to prosecute terrorist groups.
Fr. Emmanuel Faweh, vicar general of the Diocese of Kafanchan, reiterated the bishops’ call for greater efforts by both the government and society to work for a more secure nation.
“[A]s a Church, we really need to do more in denouncing every symptom of persecution in our communities,” he told The Pillar.
The country’s bishops, who are currently in Abuja for their week-long plenary assembly, are expected to release a communique on the crisis of religiously motivated violence in the nation.
This article has been updated with new statements from diocesan officials and Bishop Kundi.