“The Lord found Fr Achi worthy of suffering with Jesus”
Fr Isaac Azekpili Achi was brutally murdered on January 15, when his home in Kafin Koro was attacked by unidentified armed men. After forcing their way into the residence, the criminals shot Fr Isaac and wounded his colleague, Fr Collins, before setting the house on fire. It is unknown if he died from the gunshots or from the flames.
His murder left his community, and indeed the whole diocese, in shock. Aid to the Church in Need received the text of the sermon delivered by Fr Samuel P. Gwimi, during the funeral service in Minna Cathedral, which was attended by crowds of faithful. To honour the memory of this priest who was so committed to his mission and to his calling, ACN has decided to publish excerpts of the sermon, which have been edited for clarity.
“Like every other death of a loved one, the exit of Fr Achi is a very painful one. First, is the pain of losing someone who has been a very loving and generous father to all that came to him. Fr Achi’s generosity and hospitality knew no bounds. The way he was gruesomely, brutally, and wickedly killed makes it even more painful and leaves us all searching for answers and reasonable explanations.
“But the only answer and reasonable explanation to death is in our Christian faith in the Paschal Mystery of the Incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus, through which he has won victory for mankind over death.
“Fr Isaac believed in Jesus Christ and His Church. It is said that as he faced the agony of death, he asked for the Sacrament of Confession. There is no better way, or better moment, for expressing one’s faith than when one is face to face with death. Anyone who is a believer in Jesus is a winner. To die as a believer in Christ is a happy death, with the rewards of eternity.
“Jesus has finished preparing a dwelling place for Fr Isaac. He has come for him. No one can take that place, only Fr Achi, for whom it was prepared. The circumstances of his going are what seems to be troubling and frightening us, but Fr Achi would still have gone by any of a thousand ways. So, as we bid Fr Isaac Achi farewell, may he take possession of the place the Lord has prepared for him.
“The suffering Fr Achi endured to the end is not in vain, it has salvific value for the People of Kafin Koro in particular, for Minna diocese, for the church in Nigeria, for Niger State, and Nigeria as a whole. I believe that Fr Achi’s killers went to him with the hope of abducting him, to ask for ransom. If they had succeeded, they would have made fortunes. Fr Achi is very, very popular and loved by people of all ages. Just raise your heads and look around.
“Fr Achi’s activities among his people in Kafin Koro could have caused the desire for his abduction or even killing. He has been the voice of counsel and encouragement to the entire people of Kafin Koro in the face of attacks by bandits in the area. People called him, some went to him for counsel on all kinds of matters.
“In a sense, Fr Achi was a thorn in the lives and activities of bandits around Kafin Koro. The gallant soldier and apostle of Jesus Christ, the hero of Kafin Koro community, must have engaged his attackers in a fierce battle and would not allow them to have their way.
“As he denied them access to him, they resorted to igniting flames on the house either to force him out or be killed. Weakened by the fierce battle and probably wounded if not already killed, Fr Achi would have been suffocated by the poisonous smoke and was finally consumed by the fire of his sacrifice to God. The Lord found Fr Isaac Achi worthy of suffering with Jesus.
“The activities of bandits in the Kafin Koro area and many parts of Niger State are part and parcel of the overall lack of security that cuts across the country. The issue of insecurity in this country, associated with banditry, kidnapping, Boko Haram, herders, farmers conflict, unknown gunmen and lots more, has lasted for too long. The provision of security is the responsibility of the government and security agencies. Government and security agencies are sentries of the society. A sentry does not sleep. A sentry is on duty 24 hours to ensure the safety of society.
While we acknowledge efforts being made at guaranteeing the safety of all, we urge government and security agencies to be proactive rather than reactive. When you ask for political power and people entrust it to you, you have to provide security and protection. Remember that any innocent blood that is shed cries to God for justice.”