A priest who was gunned down at a supermarket on Aug. 19 in Nigeria is not thought to have been specifically targeted, according to the Archdiocese of Abuja.
Father Michael Akaw, ordained just a year ago, had been shopping at the supermarket in Gwagwalada, a suburb of the Nigerian capital. The priest was associate pastor at Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church in Dobi.
“It is a very sad moment for us because Father Akawu was a sign of the growing local Church in the Federal Capital Territory. He was the first indigenous priest of the local tribe here in the nation’s capital,” Father Patrick Alumuku, the archdiocesan spokesman, told Vanguard, a Nigerian newspaper.
“The Church was made to understand that Father Akawu was not the only individual that was killed by the gunmen,” Alumuku said, explaining that Church authorities did not believe he was the target of the attack. It is suspected the motive was robbery.
Nigeria has been experiencing a wave of violence over the past year. Islamist rebels and Fulani herdsmen have attacked Christians in the Muslim north of the country and Nigeria’s “Middle Belt,” where the north meets with the predominantly-Christian south.
In the south, bandits and armed gangs are rampant, and often target clergy in kidnapping-for-ransom schemes.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria issued the statement July 3, calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to do more to protect the people of the country.
“If the president cannot keep our country safe, then he automatically loses the trust of the citizens. He should no longer continue to preside over the killing fields and mass graves that our country has become,” the bishops said.