Pope Francis on Sunday greeted a group of activists from the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), who are campaigning for secession from Nigeria, after they gathered at the Vatican.
During his weekly Angelus address—where the he addresses crowds of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square from the balcony of the Apostolic Palace—the Catholic Pontiff extended a word of welcome to the Indigenous People of Biafra.
The statement was greeted with cheers and celebration by the Biafran group, who were waving flags during the address.
The Pope traditionally greets travelling groups of pilgrims during his weekly addresses and the Vatican has not publicly commented on the Pope’s position on Biafran agitation for secession.
IPOB is led by Nnamdi Kanu, a United Kingdom-Nigerian dual citizen who is currently detained in Nigeria. He was charged for treasonable felony.
Kanu is the director of Radio Biafra, an underground media outlet that broadcasts material in favour of an independent state of Biafra in the South-east.
But a text released yesterday by IPOB, said the Catholic Pontiff addressed over 35,000 members who gathered at the Vatican City for the weekly Angelus, warning their oppressors, the federal government and its agents to repent and stop killing Biafra agitators or face the wrath of God that will be catastrophic.
The text of the Catholic Pontiff”s address which was made available to THISDAY by the IPOB Media and Publicity Officer, Mr. Emma Powerful, disclosed that the Pope Francis advised the Biafra agitators and the crowd that gathered at St Peter’s Square from the balcony of the Apostolic Palace to be patient in all they are doing, that God’s patience towards their oppressors is without limit but the time for change of heart from their oppression is now. IPOB quoted the Pontiff to have said: “It is never too late to convert an oppressor to change from his evil activities, including murderous activities, but it is urgent, it is now, let them begin today to change from their oppression and killing of innocent people through all sorts of violent means, including the jack boot of the military.”
The pro-Biafra said the Pope spoke on “invincible patience,” explaining how God’s “unyielding concern for sinners” should provoke patience in us, asking “if we have you thought of God’s patience, have you even thought of his unyielding concern for sinners, how this should provoke patience among people, including governments, instead of killing people on slightest provocation or no provocation at all, let alone people who are protesting against unfair treatments or for something they feel is their rights.”
IPOB said the Pope told them that God does not permit tragedies to punish sins, rather, Jesus uses warnings that sinners will perish if they do not repent, adding that if the oppressors of peaceful agitators like the Biafra agitators in Nigeria fail to repent the wrath of God will be catastrophic against them.
The Pontiff according to IPOB, welcomes the need to firmly and unreservedly focus on negotiations and dialogue between governments and agitators all over the world including pro-Biafra agitators and the government of Nigeria, like done in Syria which has brought the current ceasefire in the country, involving government and rebel forces, which has entered its fourth day.
“I invite all to pray so that this window of opportunity can give relief to the suffering people and agitators and encourage the necessary humanitarian aid, and open the way to dialogue and much desired peace” he said.