Fr. Idris Moses Gwanube, from Nigeria, received priestly ordination on February 25, 2022, and in his vocational journey contains a particularly striking element: the conversion from Islam to the Catholic Church.
A country where Christians are severely persecuted
He was born into a Muslim family and in an Islamic-majority region of the country, which has suffered for several years a bloody wave of attacks against Christians, perpetrated mainly by Islamic fundamentalist groups such as Boko Haram terrorists and the nomadic Fulani herdsmen. In this context, if it’s already difficult and challenging to be a Christian, it’s even more dangerous to convert from Islam to Christianity.
In statements to the ACI Africa agency, the newly ordained Catholic priest explained that his conversion began at the age of 14, when he was selling bread outside a Catholic parish. Thanks to this proximity, he started to learn about the religion and became a catechumen.
He told ACI reporter Jude Atemanke:
The Catholic Church was and is still far from our house, so when the decision to become a Christian came, though accidental, I was happy because my parents wouldn’t find out because the Church was far from my home. And my family never got to know on time until I was already deep into the faith and a catechumen before they discovered it.
His relatives eventually found out that young Idris was attending church. His brothers beat him, his friends rejected him, and even his mother let him starve. They tried locking him in his room to keep him from going to Charismatic meetings at the parish, but he escaped through a window so he could attend. Idris was eventually kicked out of his home.
Entering the seminary
The young man was taken in by his godfather, who consequently suffered threats. Around the same time, the local parish priest, Fr. Kieran Danfulani, helped Idris enter the Sacred Heart minor seminary in Jalingo, in the northeastern part of the country—precisely one of the regions most affected by the actions of fanatical Islamic groups.
From the minor seminary, Idris moved on to the major seminary of St. Augustine in Jos, where he studied philosophy and theology, preparing to receive diaconate ordination in July 2021 and priesthood in February 2022. On this date, he was given a very special gift: the presence of his parents at the ceremony. “I was happy that my parents attended my ordination. It shows all my sacrifices did not go in vain,” he told ACI Africa.
Working today at Holy Family parish in Takum, he told the news agency about the challenges of religious intolerance and anti-Christian persecution in the most populous country on the African continent. Fr. Idris explained, for example, that in some Nigerian states, it’s not possible to sell land to Christians to build churches. He also mentioned the current situation of kidnappings and murders of priests and seminarians in Nigeria.
Encouraging conversion without fear
Despite the high risk of being a Christian in several areas of the country, Fr. Idris encourages all his compatriots who wish to convert from Islam to Catholicism to do so without fear and to persevere in the faith, following the example of Christ, who endured everything for the sake of our redemption.
Fr. Idris was ordained at the Cathedral of Our Lady Queen of Peace in Jalingo, along with five other new priests.