A deacon from Canada sent this story my way, with the following note:
In our parish (St. Martin de Porres, Toronto) we have been and continue blessed to have a number of priests from overseas help us out with Masses. One of the most loved of these men is Fr. Emmanuel Mbam, who hails from Nigeria and was here doing a PhD at Regis College. He’s one of those people through whom God flows non-stop. We have been worried about him with the terrible events happening in Nigeria, and I can’t say we worry any less after reading the piece he wrote for The Catholic Register.
Read on, the words of Fr. Emmanuel-Mary Mbam:
Christmas was a day of joy but also a day of tears and sorrow for Nigerian Christians. As the world celebrated the birth of the Prince of Peace, the Nigerian Church was struck by senseless violence that wiped away entire families and slaughtered scores of worshippers at three churches: St. Theresa’s parish in the town of Madalla, the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church in Jos, and the church in Gadaka.
I could have been among the victims but for divine providence. Until last April, when I was appointed as an assistant chaplain at the University of Abuja, I did weekend pastoral ministry at St. Theresa’s parish. But for that appointment I would have been in St. Theresa’s on Christmas day.
Of the five bombings, St. Theresa’s was the hardest hit, with 40 confirmed casualties. The bombers struck at the end of the 6 a.m. Christmas Mass, the most heavily attended, especially by youths. The bombers intended to drive their car full of explosives right into the Church immediately after Mass but, providentially, exiting parishioners had clogged the path to the Church with their vehicles. That caused the bombers to detonate their explosives in the middle of the road, blowing their car and everyone close by to smithereens, and damaging the church and other buildings. Entire families died in their vehicles and body parts were strewn everywhere, including the roof of the church. The casualities would have been much higher except most parishioners had gone through the back of the church to pay homage to the infant Jesus in the Christmas crib.
A spokesperson for the Islamic sect Boko Haram said the blast was revenge for Muslims killed during the last Eid-el-Fitri in Jos.
In my agony of ministering to the dead I gained insight into why the Church calls the day a person is martyred one’s birthday. These people were martyrs; they died for their faith. As Christ was born into the world, they were born into heaven. This is my only consolation.