The Christian community, the Catholic church and Nigerians generally have been thrown into mourning with the killing of Father Isaac Achi, the Catholic priest who was burned to death by bandits inside his church in Kafin Koro village of Niger State on Sunday.
Father Achi was burned to death by armed bandits who attacked his priest’s residence in the village of Kafin Koro at 3 a.m.
His remains were found among the charred parish building of Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church, according to the Catholic Diocese of Minna, Nigeria.
“This is a sad moment, for a priest to be killed in such a manner means that we are not all safe, these terrorists have lost it, and drastic action is needed to end this ongoing carnage,” Sani Bello Abubakar, the governor of the Niger state of Niger said in reaction to the gruesome killing of the Priest.
Achi was also the chairman of his local branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).
But the fatal encounter with the bandits was not the first encounter with of Father Achi with such cold blooded murderers. Indeed, he also survived terrorists’ bombing of St. Theresa’s Catholic church, Madalla in Niger state on Christmas Day of 2011 which claimed over 35 lives.
A former editor with ThisDay newspapers, Ike Abonyi, in a Facebook post, reproduced below recalled his encounter with Father Achi after the bombing of the Madalla church in 2011.
See the post below
They found him 11 yrs after Christmas day bombing of his Church.
I met Rev Fr Isaac Achi in January 2012 when as Editor in ThisDay newspaper I went to do a report on the 2011 Christmas day bombing of St. Theresa’s Catholic church, Madalla in Niger state. We became so close he took me to his village family house.
I wrote an unpublished book titled “The Madalla Martyrs: Christmas day bombing of Catholic Worshippers in Nigeria” He was to do a foreword to the book but needed permission from his Bishop because it was a sensitive topic then.
Below I produce the last question I asked him in the interview I had with him in the book. He was a lively fellow with a clean heart with a forgiving spirit in him. Before the fateful day Fr Achi had survived gunshot, kidnap and beatings. He was the first indigenous priest of his community in Niger state. May his soul rest in peace. Let’s pity the violent man touching and killing a priest of God.
Q. Father if you see a Boko-Haram person who masterminded the bombing of your Church and killed and maimed your parishioners, what would you say to him?
Fr Achi..Remember Pope John Paul II of blessed memory, after his visit to Nigeria in the year 1982, as he went back, there was an assassination attempt after which he demanded for whoever did it and from there he said he had forgiven the person. We learnt that the great Pope every Christmas or Easter apart from taking a cup of coffee with his attacker on that day, every year he sent Easter and Christmas messages to him up till his death, that is forgiveness, in my own case truly, if the person should appear today, judgment should be left for God, punishment also should be left for God. If he comes today and says Father I am sorry, I am the one that sent this bomb, I killed your parishioners, I will look at him twice and put my head down, the next thing is that I ask him why, and I will request him to repent, I have forgiven him. I have said it two days after the incident, I said I have forgiven whoever must have had a hand in it, I know the reactions I got, some said I was too early to say such a word, that it would prevent the government from doing what they ought to do, I said no, I am doing it for the sake of peace to reign in this country. I got reactions from Muslims too, who are my friends, they say father, what you said we have not seen you to greet you we have heard you on BBC, they say father may you live long for you to say you have forgiven those who did it. And that makes so many people to keep on coming and coming to really show appreciation.