And Catholic bishops call for dialogue, caution
The voice of the true clergy is the voice of divine. We do not see God, but we know and believe that He is real, very much with us, and that He governs men’s affairs, using earthly vessels that make themselves available for His service. The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) is the umbrella body incorporating all Catholic bishops drawn from the nine ecclesiastical province of the Church in Nigeria.
Since independence, the body has been meeting twice yearly to deliberate on the Church’s affairs under their jurisdiction, as well as examine the state of affairs in the country after which they offer advice to relevant authorities. What makes this body very unique is the way and manner they practically demonstrate and affirm the truth in the mantra, unity in diversity. Though they hail from all parts of the country, they speak with one voice because they are one in Christ. For them, there is no dichotomy of North and South.
From available records, Catholic bishops by the nature of their training and anointing do not speak in a hurry. Being apolitical, they weigh their words carefully, for they are rightly regarded as fathers of all. They cannot be swayed by materialism, neither do they dance to the wicked rhythms emanating out of ethnicity drums, religious discrimination or gender inequality. When they speak, it is always instructive for those concerned to hide their admonitions.
Recently, the CBCN met in Jalingo, Taraba State for their second plenary for 2017 during which they gave some constructive advice to government and citizens. To stress the importance attached to this, permit me to quote directly from the Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. Dr. Alfred Adewale Martins, who was at that meeting and summed up the outcome as follows:
The Bishops of Nigeria have been in Jalingo for over a week meeting and praying. At the end of the meeting, there was a Communique issued and I urge all of you to read it with attention. The Bishops call on us not to lose hope in spite of our individual and collective challenges, even as we call on government to do the needful in order to restore confidence of the peoples of our nation. Government needs to pay attention to the agitations and expressions of dissatisfaction with the state of things in our nation, which we have expressed in different ways all over the nation.
The Bishops also invite all to be wary of the use of the social media, even as we recognise its usefulness. It has also been used for peddling falsehood; hate speeches and outright misrepresentation of people’s thoughts and ideas. Such lead to comments that are uncharitable and capable of creating a poisonous atmosphere in the nation and against people. While we must be discerning about what others post on the Internet, we must ensure that we ourselves do not fall into abusing the media also.
The men of God have spoken and their words are full of godly admonition capable of taking us away from the woods. They have admonished us not to lose hope despite the numerous challenges we are facing. They have called on government to dialogue with IPOB and other ethnic nationalities clamouring for self-actualisation. Now, this is very important. Such agitations cannot be swept under the carpet or quell just by military action. Violence will do us no good. The recent showdown recorded at Aba, Umuahia and Port Harcourt, according to the bishops could have been avoided, had government done the needful long ago, by addressing the contentious issues in a congenial manner.
We have seen the IPOB agitation spreading across Europe and America. It has become an ideology that can only be suppressed by a superior argument. With the social media connecting all men across the globe, it is now easy to forward information, both real and fake all over to achieve desired results. The photos and videos of soldiers dehumanising IPOB members is far from palatable. Equally, some of the comments being made on the person of Mr. President are far from being civil and capable of portraying him as not being sensitive enough to the wind of change blowing in the form of quest for restructuring. We have to face all these now – all stakeholders, including input from the National Assembly, to put all agitations to rest before an implosion occurs and swallow us up. May God bless our country!
• Very Rev. Msgr. Osu, Director, Social Communications, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos