Nigeria Church attack: When suffering is overlooked
By Sergio Centofanti
It is striking to browse the webpages of major news outlets and not to see among the top news items—with a few exceptions—the dramatic massacre carried out in a Catholic church in Nigeria during Mass on Pentecost Sunday.
African media outlets have complained for decades of being on the margins of international attention, not only regarding tragedies but even especially all that is beautiful and positive on the continent. Theirs is not the lament of a victim, but a simple statement of a reality: Africa’s humanity is disregarded in favor of many hidden or overt interests for its natural resources.
The images of the massacre are horrific. No one can fully understand the evil that lashed out so ferociously on helpless people praying on a feast day and took so many lives, with many children among the victims.
It is striking to see so much pain utterly neglected and to witness the indifference and lack of compassion in the face of those who suffer.
Pope’s care and concern for Africa
Pope Francis’ first appeal of his pontificate was for the Central African Republic, where he opened the Holy Door for the Jubilee of Mercy.
Since then, he has repeatedly urged everyone to open their hearts to the poor, the marginalized and those who are forgotten.
His first trip was to the Italian island of Lampedusa, to remember the many migrants who dreamed of a better life but died because they did not find an outstretched hand to save them.
Forgotten wars and suffering
There are so many forgotten wars and crises, not only in Africa. Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Haiti come to mind, just to name a few.
Recalling those forgotten sufferings and thinking of this small Nigerian town—Owo, the scene of Sunday’s massacre—the prophecy of Isaiah comes to mind when he says that one day all peoples will see the justice of God and every neglected city, every forgotten and abandoned person, will clearly behold the love of God our Savior:
You shall be called by a new name bestowed by the mouth of the Lord. You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the Lord, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. No more shall you be called “Forsaken,” nor your land called “Desolate,” but you shall be called “My Delight is in her,” and your land “Espoused.” For the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be espoused. For as a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; And as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you... “See, your savior comes! See, his reward is with him, his recompense before him.” They shall be called “The Holy People,” “The Redeemed of the LORD.” And you shall be called “Cared For,” “A City Not Forsaken.” (Isaiah 62)