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Religious leaders sue for peace at Christmas

By Sam Eyoboka and  Olayinka Latona
NIGERIAN Christian leaders in Nigeria are taking advantage of the Yuletide season to offer prayers to God for peaceful elections, while urging Nigerians irrespective of  their religion or ethnic inclination, to troop out en-masse to register during the Voters’ registration exercise, vote for credible candidates and be ready to make their votes count.

Worried by the political tension already building up ahead of next year’s crucial elections, the religious leaders enjoined politicians to play the game with caution in the interest of the nation.

In their separate goodwill messages to Nigerians who are today marking the birth of the progenitor of the Christian faith, Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago, the clerics want Nigerians to take a cue from the divine sacrifice made by the Creator Himself which is the reason for the celebration of Christmas and ensure that the nation’s peace is not distorted.

The president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, Prelate, Methodist Church Nigeria, His Eminence Sunday Ola Makinde, Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, his Anglican counterpart, Archbishop Ephraim Ademowo, Spiritual leader, St. Joseph Chosen Church of God, Apostle Hayford Alile, presiding bishop of TREM, Dr. Mike Okonkwo and others wish all Nigerians a peaceful and somber celebration.

Cardinal Okogie

We want to use this opportunity to call on our governments to be up and doing especially this Christmas. Many people have seen and are still tasting hunger and suffering in our land that is flowing with milk and honey all due to the mismanagement of our resources. Our leaders should let the light shine on the citizens at least by the provision of basic necessities of life-food, water, electricity, medicine, education, affordable housing.

The need for our government to restore hope to Nigerians is becoming more and more obvious. Our governments have failed the masses they claim to serve. We call on them to demonstrate their sensibility to sufferings and poverty of the people by ensuring a sustainable economic empowerment for the citizens.

The leadership of Jesus gave by being born in the stable for us is worthy of emulation. As we gradually draw near 2011, let us be careful how we follow people or even our government. If we follow blindly in the name of political patronage, or because, we want to line our pockets with naira, we shall continue to sink and in the end, wallow in abject poverty.

Finally, Christmas brings a message of peace; but unfortunately, we live in a world of continuous conflicts and tensions. Sadly enough, bombs have started exploding in Nigeria. With 2011 elections around the corner, more bombs are likely to explode in many places; but whatever happens our optimism must be high.

Pastor Oritsejafor

I would say to Nigerians, for once, let us see Nigeria as a project; a real project, just as God saw the world as a project and He sent His son. Let us see Nigeria as a project worth sacrificing for. When we see Nigeria as a project worth sacrificing for, the next thing would be what kind of sacrifice can I make? If we look at the different sacrifices we can make—from the bottom to the top—believe me, this project Nigeria will take off very quickly. And we’d all have a nation we can be proud of.

We must all agree and say, I will register. Then make a selection of who you would vote for. Don’t let people intimidate or buy you, because if they give you money——how much would they really give you?—if they come into office, they are not obligated to give you anything because they had given you what is due you for the next four years. So, register, select, then when it’s time to vote; go out and vote and protect your vote. That is RSVP—Register, Select who you would vote for, Vote and Defend your vote. It’s very important. That is part of the sacrifice. They would have given you this or that, but say to them, keep it, I don’t want. I just want credible election.

Bishop Okonkwo

I call on Christians in the world over not to lose sight of the fact that there is a greater Christmas celebration in heaven, a celebration which will not end in a day and only the Redeemed will participate in the everlasting celebration.

I therefore encourage every Nigerian to be at peace with God, with one another and promote peace in the nation during the Christmas celebration. Christmas is about love, peace and mercy of God. The message of Christmas is about Jesus Christ who is the Prince of Peace and therefore we have to make a deliberate effort to straighten our relationship with God by connecting ourselves to His word which is the ultimate in life.

I call for prayers that violence will cease in Nigeria. All politicians must shun violence and embrace peace in all its ramifications. Jesus, the Greatest Leader, stood for peace both in life and in death and His birth is meant to bequeath peace to the world-peace with God and peace with men.

All those involved in the evil of kidnapping must desist from it. Everyone should look around and take advantage of the developing economy to make a living, rather than engage in various acts of violence and perpetrating evil.

Apostle Alile

The dominant theme of this year’s Yuletide is ‘Giving’. This is the greatest way to express love. This was clearly manifested by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ whose birthday we are celebrating. He gave up all His privileges and comfort in His Father’s kingdom to come and redeem us from the clutches of sin and the judgment of God for all sinners.

As we celebrate His birth, I want to call on all Nigerians and believers alike to extend a hand of fellowship, of love and appreciation to one another, as exemplified in the life of Jesus Christ. No matter your class or position; give to the less privileged, to the motherless; put a smile on somebody’s face this season, no matter how little. Remember, the Widow gave her mite and Mary gave her Alabaster box and oil.

The Yuletide is not a time for riotous living or gluttony; it’s not a time for unguarded ostentation or parade of wealth, but a time to show God’s kind of love, best manifested in giving. Know the Christ behind the mass. The year 2011 gives us the opportunity and challenges to demonstrate the best in us. All Nigerians should rise and vote for the best leaders to lead in the next decade.

Pastor Gabriel Olutola

Christians should remember that Christmas celebration is not for dining, wining and satisfying the flesh alone with some dying in the process; but a time to remember that Christ is coming back and we must be prepared. The essence of Christmas is gradually diminishing in the world because people major on eating, drinking and satisfying the lust of the flesh only.

I am appealing to all Nigerians to celebrate Christmas in a way that it will be acceptable to the Lord. Christ is the reason for the season. This year’s Christmas should be celebrated in a moderate way without indulging in drinking and immoral acts that will land people into trouble. I pray that this Christmas will bring us closer to the spirit of human understanding, closer to genuine peace and reconciliation, closer to a recognition and acceptance of our common humanity.

Most Rev. Ademowo

Over 85 per cent of Nigerians live below poverty level. Where is the peace, if the people cannot be provided with essentials of life such as food, shelter, employment for the labour force, adequate health care and facilities, power supply, good roads and other social infrastructure?

We pray that the government of the day should work for the actualization of peace in the country. Nigeria should be seen as a detrabilised nation. Every citizen should work hard in ensuring that we leave indelible impression on the sand of time. The political class should also ensure that they work for emancipation and production of welfare of the people during this period of Yuletide.

The Federal Government should make adequate arrangement to provide security for the nation’s citizenry. We call on the Executive and Legislative arms of government at the Federal, States and Local levels to show their love for the country.

Monsignor Gabriel Osu

Christmas should be seen as a period to remember those who have been good to us. The greatest present you can give to them is to be grateful, appreciate them, thank them for their goodness to you.

Apart from the joy, laughter, love and happiness of Christmas, with the consumerism and decoration associated with this season, people should reflect and show love to those God used to make our lives different, those who touched our lives, reshaped our lives.


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