Nigeria: a call for healing a 'distorted, bloodied and corrupted society'

"Sin is rationalized. Violence is institutionalized."

By John Pontifex

NEW YORK—The leader of Nigeria’s Catholics has made an impassioned plea for peace and dialogue as the country faces a surge in violence, a crippling economic crisis, and the threat of famine in the north-east—where Islamist militants continue to carry out attacks.

In his Lenten message, a copy of which was obtained by international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos painted a stark picture. He wrote: “Our contemporary society, polluted by social vices, needs renewal. Sin is rationalized. Violence is institutionalized.”

In addition to Islamist-inspired violence continuing to plague the nation, militant groups in the Niger Delta region renewed their terror campaign against foreign energy companies in August 2016. Amid reports that Nigeria’s economic crisis is the worst in decades, Yakubu Dogara, Speaker of the House of Representatives, last month linked Nigeria’s ongoing recession to the activities of the region’s militia groups.

Archbishop Kaigama, who is president of both the Nigerian bishops’ conference and the regional episcopal conference for West Africa, stressed the need for dialogue to resolve such situations.

Archbishop Kaigama B.jpg

He said: “When we hear of youth from the North East, South East and the Niger Delta area threatening to destroy the economy, the unity and the corporate existence of this nation, the question is: do they know the implications of war?

“The knives, swords, the bombs and guns have not brought victory to anyone. [In spite of] all their boasting, no one has really won a war in this country. We are all losers after every war. Any war we fight will only take us back socially and economically to those dark days of survival of the fittest. We have experienced the sad effects of war and why try to go that way again?”

Nigeria has experienced ongoing violence for years. Beginning in 2009, Islamist militant group Boko Haram has been carrying out a campaign of terror, mainly in the north east, which has left at least 20,000 people dead and more than 2.6 million Nigerians displaced.

Despite government troops liberating areas from the group’s control in the past year, attacks continue. Boko Haram strikes have led to tensions between Christians and Muslims—but the Church has launched initiatives to promote harmony between the two faiths groups.

Archbishop Kaigama wrote: “A lot of work is being done to foster peace, to stamp out violence and ensure orderliness and brotherliness in different parts of Nigeria where today misunderstanding based on religious, ethnic or economic reasons cause us a lot of drawback. We need more genuine dialogue across ethnic, religious and political boundaries.”

Archbishop Kaigama wrote: “The beauty of Christianity is that it breaks down barriers, demolishes walls erected by ethnic or regional prejudices. If we welcome God but fail to welcome our brothers and sisters we are only Christians by half. Our Christian religion teaches us to care about others, overcoming evil with good.”

Archbishop Kaigama; ACN photo

 

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