The Anglican Province of Owerri, Imo State, has said that it would engage the police to find out why it desecrated the church while enforcing the arrest of Uche Nwosu at St Peter’s Anglican Church, Eziama Obieri in the Nkwerre Local Government Area of the state on Monday during a thanksgiving service.
The church said that while it supports the arrest of individuals who committed crimes no matter how highly placed they are, the invasion of a church of worship by security operatives while a service was on going was unacceptable.
The Archbishop of the province, Most Rev Dr David O. C Onuoha, in a statement on Monday, said that the shooting of bullets and dispersing of worshippers had never been witnessed in the over 160 years of existence of the church in the state.
The statement read, “It was a black Sunday yesterday December 26, 2021, as armed men in uniform invaded St. Peter’s Anglican Church Eziama Obaire in Nkwerre Local Government Area, Diocese of Orlu in Imo State and roundly desecrated God’s sanctuary. The officiating priest had barely concluded the celebration and administration of the Holy Eucharist, ready for the end of year thanksgiving, when armed men stormed the church. The Nigerian Police later explained that it was for the purpose of effecting an arrest.
“Much as we are not concerned or interested in the reason for this invasion, which is unprecedented in the more than 160 years history of the church in this state, we are gravely worried and disturbed that worshippers were greatly frightened, worried, confused and completely disorganised by the presence of heavily armed security operatives in the church service thereby disrupting the worship of God’s people.
“That the police jumped inside the church in a gestapo style when the service was in full session is reprehensible, primitive, and highly condemnable. We are at a great loss why the police decided to throw caution to the winds and completely ignore internationally acclaimed rules of engagement and civility in this matter.
“The sporadic gunshots outside the church building sent worshippers scampering in different directions, signaling an abrupt and chaotic end of the service.
“While the church is in support of and have always been praying for the success of our security personnel in the daunting task and challenge of securing lives and property in our dear state and every effort at bringing the perpetrators/sponsors of this crime against humanity to book no matter how highly placed, we warn that such acts as the one in issue are capable of worsening the security challenges we are currently facing.
“The Church will in the next few days engage the Nigerian Police in a dialogue to truly understand the reasons behind this dastardly act and how to avoid a repeat occurrence. While this process is on, we urge all Christians to continue in prayers for God’s mercy on all of us and peace in our land.”
Imo govt, CAN Apologise To Anglican Church
The Imo State Government has apologised to the Anglican Church and the people of the state who felt slighted by the manner the police invaded St Peters Anglican Church, Eziama Obaire and arrested governorship candidate of the Action Alliance (AA) Chief Uche Nwosu during a church service on Sunday.
A statement by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba, which condemned the action of the police, also pointed out that some people are hiding under the incident to whip up public sentiments.
According to the statement, ‘the plan is to de-emphasise the possible criminality behind his arrest by playing up the desecration of a church.
‘For the avoidance of doubt, while the government believes that no stone should be spared in the effort to rid the state of criminality and banditry, it will not support any form of disrespect for a place of worship by security agencies.
‘In this regard, the arrest of Mr Nwosu within the church premises could have been avoided and therefore stands condemned.
‘While government regrets the manner the arrest was made we wish to emphasize that since it was purely a security matter, the full reason why such an action was taken will eventually unfold and perhaps guide the public better,’ Emelumba stated.
He continued: ‘Government, therefore, wishes to appeal to those negatively affected by the action to bear with the security agencies.
‘His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodinma, holds the Anglican Communion in very high esteem and will never support any act that will disrespect her reverential status as a place of divine worship.
‘Government will continue to protect the interest of citizens of the state while not impeding the work of security agencies,’ Emelumba assured.
In the same vein, the state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) apologised to the church.
Briefing newsmen, the state chairman of CAN, Reverend Divine Eches said: ‘As the umbrella body of Christians in the state, we support efforts by security agencies to bring any person fingered of involvement in any form of criminality in the state to book. But the security agencies must be mindful of their mode of operations to avoid offending the sensitivities of our people and unwittingly giving detractors the opportunity to rubish their good works,’ Eches stated.
Meanwhile, the Archbishop of the Anglican Province of Owerri, Most Reverend David Onuoha, has maintained that in as much as the church is not interested in the reason for the invasion, it was particularly perturbed by the trauma it caused the worshippers at the church.
Onuoha said that the church will engage the police in a dialogue to find out the reason for the invasion to avoid a repeat.