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Catholic Bishops seek total Solidarity Against Terrorism in Nigeria

By Eric Ojo, Abuja

Piqued the alarming wave of terrorism and insecurity in Nigeria, the Niger Delta Catholic Bishops’ Forum has reiterated the need for all Nigerians to unite and speak with one voice against the perpetrators of all forms of criminality and terrorism in the country.

kneel-before-the-crossThe Catholic Bishops said the safety and security of all Nigerian citizens and residents cannot be compromised under any religious, ethnic, ideological guise or any agenda whatsoever that is being pursued by any person or group of persons.

The group added that it behoves on all Nigerians to support every effort geared towards putting an end to the increasing wave of terrorism and attacks have resulted to the death of many innocent people in the North/East region and other neighbouring states in that axis of the country.

The clergymen made the observation in a statement jointly signed by Archbishop Joseph Ukpo, Metropolitan emeritus of Calabar Province and Rev. Fr. Edward Obi MSP, Chairman and Secretary of the Forum. The forum further noted that the spate of vicious and deadly attacks by the Boko Haram Islamic fundamentalist group, must be collectively condemned and resisted by all and sundry.

“When our common humanity is attacked as it is now, we must stand together irrespective of religious, ethnic, political or geographical divide. We are indeed one family in the face of this evil, and call upon well-meaning Nigerians to join hands and resist it,” the Bishops said.

While also condemning the recent abduction of the students of Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State by the Boko Haram militants, the group said it was the most horrendous act of criminality against humanity, adding that they were equally horrified by other senseless acts of mass murder visited upon ordinary citizens of Nigeria, going about their legitimate business.

“We know that Islam, just as Christianity, preaches peace and respect for human life, and therefore, are not persuaded by any radicalization of the tenets of that religion for cheap political gains. Furthermore, we do not encourage any statements capable of inflaming the situation and entrenching bigotry of any sort.

“On the contrary, we support the concerted, legitimate, actions of the Federal Government of Nigeria, our security forces and the international community to speedily gain the release of these girls and safely bring them back home,” the Bishops further stated.

The forum however attributed the upsurge in terrorism in the country to frustration and hopelessness which, according to them, come with the reality of extreme poverty. The group therefore called for more proactive and holistic approach in solving the socio-economic problems of the country in order to find a lasting solution to the problem.

“In addition to all efforts being made to restore peace in the North-East region, there should be a deliberate effort also to improve education, infrastructure, social conditions and to create gainful employment for the teeming youth of that region, as well as Nigeria at large. A holistic approach, which includes addressing not only the symptoms but also the root causes of the problem, should be adopted”,

The clergymen also commiserated with the grieved families of the abducted students as well as those who have lost their loved ones in the series of attacks by the terrorists, and prayed for the souls of those who have died in such attacks.

Also speaking in the same vein, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Most Rev. Mathew Hassan Kukah has described the incident of the abduction of over 200 female students in Chibok as a call to repentance and reconciliation for the emancipation of a better Nigeria nation.

According to him, “Chibok calls us to repentance as a nation because we have squandered for too much as a people and a nation. No single event has held our country together and elicited attention and sympathy the way this tragic incident has done. Indeed, the Chinese were right: behind every tragedy, lurks an opportunity. Nigeria has an opportunity to think and dream again because the world is watching. I hope so.”

The Bishop who gave the charge while addressing over 1,000 thousand Catholic faithful and members of other Christian denominations during the Adoration, Rosary Procession and Intercessory Prayers held for the intervention of God in the facilitation of the release of the kidnapped students, thanked all the nations of the world that have offered to help the country in her present predicament.

“I’m most gratitude to God that once again, a tragedy such as this has pulled together the beautiful threads of our differences to help us weave a tapestry of unity and love,” he stated. He also used the occasion to take a swipe at the country’s political leaders for what he described as their lack of patriotism and insincerity at governance.

“When it is all over, our children will be apostles of peace. But, will those who govern us appreciate that we have a country to build? Will our politicians understand that we have a future to nurture? Will they realize that government is so serious it should never be left in the hands of politicians?” he further admonished.

Also speaking during the celebration of a special Mass for the abducted students, the Secretary General of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN), Rev. Fr. Ralph Madu, called on Nigerians to form a common front to confront the menace of the Boko Haram Islamic terrorists group.

Describing the Boko Haram insurgency, and particularly the abduction of the secondary school girls by the terrorists as an ungodly act, Fr. Madu expressed concern about the trauma being suffered by the abducted children and their parents and guardians, praying that God will comfort and console them in their present predicament, adding that the Chibok incident is one callousness too many.

“This is not the time to apportion blame, but bury our differences and form a common front to confront the Boko Haram with continuous prayer until the group is defeated by God. In the present situation, God’s intervention is most paramount and all Nigerians should embark on continuous prayer, irrespective of their religious beliefs or faith, for God to come to the rescue of the country,” he added.

While corroborating Rev. Madu’s position, the Director of Church and Society Department, Rev. Fr. Evaristus Bassey noted that the need to turn to God for intervention has become imperative, since government’s efforts at combating the Boko Haram insurgency, according to him, seem not to be enough.

Rev. Bassey said there is need for Nigerians to be united in prayer against the common enemy of the country and avoid the temptation to hate each other but love and serve God and humanity, irrespective of class, religion, ethnic or political affiliations.

“It is immaterial whether the girls missing are Christians or Muslim, what is important is that they are human beings and Nigerians. We must come together as both Christians and Muslims, join our hearts and minds together and call on God to preserve the unity of our nation; for what seems to be the reality is that powerful forces are driving a sharp knife through the heart of this nation and want us to begin tearing one another into pieces.

“Let us remember Rwanda. Let us remember what is happening in Central Africa Republic. Let us remember that we have already fought a civil war. Let us avoid the temptation to hate and push ourselves to love no matter how difficult it may be,” he warned.

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