In the heart of Nigeria’s turbulence, where echoes of violence reverberate and where Christians are often the target of violent attacks, such as the massacre perpetrated on Christmas Even in Plateau State, stands a beacon of hope and unwavering faith – Father Solomon Patrick Zaku, the National Director of The Pontifical Mission Societies Nigeria (TPMS) since 2020.
Father Zaku’s journey as the National Director involves coordinating activities across 60 dioceses, promoting a universal missionary spirit through prayer and mission animation. But his role extends beyond mere administration; it’s about igniting a missionary zeal in every baptized individual, encouraging them to contribute to the Church’s mission in their unique ways.
Mission Beyond Borders
“We need to help people understand, through missionary formation, that we are all called to be missionaries… We are all called to help the missions,” Father Zaku said when speaking about the mission of TPMS Nigeria: “We seek to instill a sense of personal responsibility and active participation in the faith among all believers.”
Though igniting generous giving has been a foundational value of The Society for the Propagation of the Faith as envisioned by Blessed Pauline Jaricot, the mission of the four Pontifical Societies transcends fundraising. It’s about nurturing a deep-seated missionary spirit across all ages and vocations. In Nigeria, each of the societies- Missionary Childhood Association, The Society for the Propagation of the Faith, St. Peter apostle and the Missionary Union, all have programs interwoven to keep the spirit of missionaries alive. These programs, that range from Mission Clubs in seminaries to weekly catechesis for children, help build a tapestry of faith in a country were going to Mass on Sunday can be deadly.
With some 214 million people, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation, and it absolutely pulsates with Christian energy. It’s the largest Christian nation in Africa, too, with some 80 million believers, and the faith is not a simple yes in a census. According to the Pew Research Center, a staggering 89% of Nigerian Christians attend church services at least once a week, one of the highest shares in the world. In the U.S., by way of comparison, it’s about 26% plus a 5% attending virtually.
A new hostel in Augustine Major Seminary in Jos. The has about 400 seminarians . The hostels was sponsored by The Pontifical Mission Societies and Aid to the Church n Need.
A Nation in Turmoil
Yet, this missionary zeal is tested against a backdrop of harrowing adversity. Nigeria, a country once relatively peaceful, now finds itself ensnared in a web of insecurity, affecting every region. From the Boko Haram insurgents in the northeast to banditry and kidnappings in other parts, the nation’s fabric is tearing apart, with Christians often caught in the crossfire.
The numbers tell a grisly tale: According to Genocide Watch, a nonpartisan watchdog group, some 11,500 Christians have been killed in Nigeria since 2015, meaning 2,300 a year, which translates into roughly one new Christian martyr every four hours. Some 4 to 5 million Christians are believed to be internally displaced.
Father Zaku describes the security situation: “The security situation has deteriorated so much so that different parts of the country are no longer safe… In the northeast, we still have the Boko Haram; they still carry out some pockets of attention on places, killing people, and then taking over places, burning religious places.”
The tragic Christmas Eve attack in Plateau State, claiming over 200 lives, predominantly women and children, is a stark reminder of the perilous reality.
In a heartfelt response to the tragic loss of life on Christmas Eve in Nigeria, Pope Francis has extended prayers and condolences to the families who were victimized by a brutal attack in Plateau State.
Over 200 men and women were killed by armed militias in several villages across Mangu and Bokkos LGAs of the state, casting a shadow over the global celebration of Christmas.
After delivering his regular Angelus message on Sunday, the Pope turned his attention to the recent violence.
“Unfortunately, the celebration of Christmas in Nigeria was marked by serious violence in the State of Plateau, with many victims. I am praying for them and their families. May God free Nigeria from these atrocities!” he said.
Nursery and primary school under construction in Langtang Shendam Diocese being sponsored by the Missionary Childhood Association.
A Priest’s Resolute Faith
In his 14 years of priesthood, Father Zaku has witnessed Nigeria’s descent into chaos. Yet, his resolve remains unshaken. Originating from a predominantly Muslim family in Yobe State, he chose priesthood, fully aware of the inherent risks. Surviving multiple attacks and witnessing the destruction of his parish, his faith, far from faltering, has only grown stronger.
Reflecting on his journey and challenges, Father Zaku states, “I really knew that it was not going to be easy to be a priest… I come from the northern part of the country… So even from my father’s family, after I became a Christian, I’ve experienced persecution. ”
A Message to the Comfortable
To those who take the safety and freedom to worship for granted, Father Zaku’s story is a wake-up call. The gravity of faith is not truly understood until one has to risk everything for it. His life is a testament to the unwavering belief in the protective grace of God, even in the face of dire persecution.
A Call for Global Solidarity
Father Zaku extends heartfelt gratitude to the supporters of TPMS in the United States. Their generosity, both material and spiritual, has been a lifeline for the Church in Nigeria. In these trying times, this global brotherhood reminds us that we are not alone in our struggles: “your financial contributions have really strengthened us during our moments of need. We know that we are not alone because we have brothers and sisters who do a very powerful and generous effort from afar.”
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