Many Christain worshipers in Owo, Ondo state refrained from attending church on Sunday, following a violent attack on a Catholic church in the town last week.
Last Sunday, suspected terrorists dressed in khakis opened fire on worshipers at St Francis Catholic Church in Owa-luwa, Owo, killing more than 40 parishioners and injuring dozens gathered for Sunday mass.
Unlike other Sundays, usually packed religious centers were largely deserted, apparently for fear of last week’s disaster.
An audit by Peoples Gazette of some of the major churches in Owo, including Apostolic Faith, Winners Chapel, CAC, Foursquare Gospel, Anglican and RCCG, showed worship centers were placed under lock and key.
A few who held brief services experienced low attendance and watched under the watchful eye of the local vigilante group.
There was also a joint patrol of the combined security officers including police, army and Amotekun corps in the city.
Others were seen stationed at strategic locations including near Olowo Palace of Owo, Oba Ajibade Ogunoye.
Speaking to our reporter, one of the pastors at the Winners’ Chapel, Igbekele Adebolu, said many of his congregants were still shocked by last week’s attack on St Francis Catholic Church, from where the reason for their abstinence today.
Mr. Adebolu explained that the Christian community must step up their supplications to God, especially during this difficult time.
He added that the government must tighten security around all worship centers in the state, to avoid a repeat of last Sunday’s attack.
“What happened is a sad incident that will remain etched in the memory of our people,” the cleric noted. “And I see there’s a temptation, but we can’t stop the whole church from not worshiping God.
“Truly so many lives were lost to the violent attack and we do not pray for it to happen again as it is a war that has been declared on the Christian faithful by the infidels.”
“We are aware of the efforts of the security agents to find the perpetrators of the attack and we, as Christians, will not sleep but rather continue our prayers and fasting for God to expose them. We are also asking the government to help us increase security around churches in the city and the state as a whole,” he added.
Meanwhile, some Christian worshipers and leaders of Methodist churches in the city on Sunday converged on the scene of the attack for prayer.
The faithful were led in a sermon by the Bishop of the Diocese of Owo, Anglican Communion, Reverend Stephen Fagbemi, where they offered prayers for the families of those massacred in the attack.
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and some members of the State Executive Council were also present at the scene, under tight security.
Earlier, the Owo traditional leader’s spokesman, Sam Adewale, told The Gazette that the monarch was still in a pensive mood over the attack on the town.
“Kabiyesi, Oba Ogunoye is still not in a good mood. Although, as a traditional chief, tradition does not allow him to be in a bad mood, the truth is that he is sad.
“And we get visitors to the palace offering their condolences for the brutal attack, but the Kabiyesi are just taking heart,” Mr Adewale said.
A week after the massacre, security agencies have yet to identify the attackers, although the federal government says the perpetrators are militias from Islamic State’s West Africa Province, ISWAP, an offshoot of Boko Haram.
The attack was condemned by eminent personalities and different groups, including international organizations.