By Antonella Palermo and Deborah Castellano Lubov
"The proximity of elections, terrorism, ethnic clashes, and organised crime are some of the factors that make the country particularly unstable."
Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi, the Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria, made this obsevation about Nigeria's volatile context in an interview with Vatican News’ Antonella Palermo.
Their conversation came in the aftermath of an attack early Sunday on a parish residence in the Catholic Diocese of Minna, in which Father Isaac Achi brutally lost his life. Bandits targeted the priests' residence of the Church of Sts Peter and Paul, in Kafin-Koro, in the Paikoro region.
Fr. Achi was burnt alive, while assistant parish priest, Fr. Collins Omeh, was shot and injured while trying to escape. He remains in hospital and is responding to treatment.
Archbishop Filipazzi reflected on the violence, noting that many details are still unknown and still need to be better understood. However, he did shed light on the situation in the country as a whole.
"First of all," said the Apostolic Nuncio, "we are just a few weeks away from important elections that will call a new president to lead this great country, and so elections always bring instability."
"The country being so large," he said, "there are various factors that lead to violence: terrorism, ethnic clashes, organised crime... All this, also in an economic context that certainly is not flourishing. If we put all these aspects together, we can see how serious the situation really is."
"Obviously," Archbishop Filipazzi added, "those who suffer most are the people who are most exposed: both because they have no possibility of protecting themselves and because they live in areas that are more deprived, less protected."
"But I would say that, because violence is blind," he continued, "when violence breaks out, sometimes it does not look anyone in the face and strikes in all sectors of society."
The Nuncio acknowledged it strikes in all areas and leaves victims of all faiths.
The Apostolic Nuncio also shared his hopes for Nigeria during this difficult time.
“I believe that we must hope and pray that, first of all, Nigerians are aware that they are the first to respond to this situation, that their State must be a State that is able to protect the rights and property of all citizens, without distinction.”
"This must be everyone's aim," concluded Archbishop Filipazzi, "to create such a State, a State that is capable of fulfilling this mission. And this is certainly everyone's task, starting with those who have responsibility for government and administration."