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IN MEMORIAM: Reverend Father Isaac Achi, who survived many terror attacks

Very Reverend Father (Fr.) Isaac Achi died on January 15 after armed terrorists attacked the parish building of St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in the village of Kafin Koro at 3 a.m. He will not only be remembered nation-wide as the priest who escaped several terrorist attempts on his life, but will also be remembered for his works of generosity and source of inspiration to the people of his parishes and community.

Fr. Achi, like many who join the priesthood, was drawn into the affairs of the church in his early childhood and was very magnificent, joined the seminary as it is required for all who want to be ordained as Priest in the Catholic church, and was ordained on January 7, 1995. This meant the people of Gbagyi/Koro were going to be having themselves the first priest from their land. After his ordination, Father Achi was transferred to Minna Archdiocese of the Catholic church from where he was moved to different parishes in areas like Madalla, Naki, Shiroro and Kafin Koro, Paikoro.

A man of generosity and charisma

During a tribute to the deceased, one of Fr. Achi relations spoke highly of him as someone whom a lot of people looked up to. He said the Very Reverend was a man who counseled the youth using himself as an example as he remembered how he often went to seek advice when he was stationed at a parish in Shiroro in Niger State. He also said he sponsored many people to universities across Nigeria.

“I know more than 15 people who have graduated while some are still in school. He had a large heart. We will surely miss him. What I will miss about him most is that in the family, he was the most elderly. Everybody ran to him for advice or anything that had to do with career mentorship,” said the relation.

Kumdong Bindul Nostra, an author, who had met Fr. Achi at one of the catholic churches in Naki described him in one of his books as a man who stole the hearts of people everywhere he went.

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Surviving terrorism

According to the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter in one of their publications, Priests who survived imprisonment at Dachau in World War II afterwards professed that the priesthood was better understood by what they had to suffer. Very Reverend Father Isaac Achi through his journey has experienced the suffering that comes with being a priest in the Northern part of Nigeria which has been plagued with the issues of terrorism.

It was during his time at St Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madalla a town at the borders of Suleja and Abuja that he faced some of his most difficult times as priest. Fr. Achi was abducted in Madalla and spent days in captivity until his church members raised some ransom before he regained freedom.

Still in Madalla, on his way to a naming ceremony to bless a child, the priest was shot on his jaw. Gunmen were reported to have invaded the house and started attacking people when the priest stood up to them. He was flown abroad for treatment.

The most well-known attack occurred at his parish on Christmas Day in 2011, when a boko haram suicide bomber stormed the church, killing 44 people, many of whom were parishioners. He was later transferred to two other parishes before he was sent to Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in the village of Kafin Koro whose former parish priest Fr John Gbakan was killed by bandits exactly two years before he was burnt in the church premises.

Forgiveness

Father Achi stood in front of the congregation a year after the attack in Madalla leading the requiem mass for those who had died in the catastrophic attack and pleaded with them to learn to forgive everyone who had intentionally injured them. He said that prayers are necessary for people who harm the state and defenseless civilians. The priest urged the people to continue praying, stating that love and prayer had the capacity to transform any circumstance.