ACI Africa, Aug 24, 2023 / 11:30 am (CNA).
A seminarian in Nigeria’s Diocese of Makurdi on Monday narrowly escaped death when the car he was riding in was shot at by Islamist Fulani herdsmen.
David Igba, a seminarian with Via Christi Society who was fulfilling his pastoral assignment at Sacred Heart Udei Parish in the Diocese of Makurdi, was traveling with two others when their car was sprayed with bullets by a group of gun-wielding Fulani herders in the Aug. 21 incident.
Igba told ACI Africa, CNA’s partner news agency in Africa, that the incident at a bridge linking Udei to Makurdi market happened while running an errand for the pastor of the parish, which continues to experience incessant attacks by Fulani herdsmen.
The seminarian said he had just left the parish in the late morning with the parish’s cook and a driver to print out some documents in the Makurdi market.
“As we approached the bridge that links Udei to Makurdi, we saw people running ahead of our car. They had a large herd of cattle going ahead of them,” Igba said in an Aug. 23 interview with ACI Africa.
“As we approached the men, we kept talking, hoping that the men weren’t Fulanis because we know what they are capable of,” he continued. “They kept running. I think they thought that we were soldiers. When they realized that we were not soldiers, they started shooting after our car.”
Igba said it was a miracle that he and the other two occupants of the car survived the ordeal. “I was very scared,” he said. “The killings here are too much. I have lost many relations to the Fulani herdsmen, but that was the closest I came so close to death at … their hands. I kept praying that God would protect us.”
The seminarian, a student at St. Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary in Makurdi, just completed his eight-month pastoral experience at the parish. He said he finds the inspiration to continue with his journey to the priesthood from his daily encounters with the people, whom he said have lost everything to the Islamist Fulanis.
“As much as the killings go on, I believe that God has his own way of saving his people and that Christianity will always rise beyond everything that threatens it,” he said. “I also believe that in God’s appointed time, all these killers will experience conversion and they will stop all this cruelty. This is what keeps me going.”
Igba recounted his constant message to the people of God he visited in the villages served by Sacred Heart Udei Parish: “My message, as I looked at them beaten and without hope, was simple. ‘Do not lose hope,’ I told them. Do not stop praying. I saw that all of them were tired of running.”
He said most of those living in the villages that are currently under siege had already abandoned their villages and are living in a state of despair.
“They don’t go to church anymore. They see no reason to. But I kept reminding them that the situation they are in now will pass,” he said.
This story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, and has been adapted by CNA.
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