By Luminous Jannamike, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has urged Catholic Bishops to keep on speaking truth to power, just as he tasked them to extend their message of change to violent non-state actors, saying some of them were propagating genuine causes but with mindless brutality.
He spoke at the opening session of the 4th Plenary Assembly of the Reunion of Episcopal Conferences of West Africa (RECOWA), held in Abuja on Tuesday.
Buhari, who was represented by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, noted that the West Africa region is passing through a season of considerable political, economic and social turmoil, but urged the Bishops to play active roles in building brotherhood and sustainable peace.
He said, “Indeed, the Catholic Church and the Bishops conference have established a reputation for speaking truth to power in consonance with the highest prophetic traditions and by continuing its illustrious practice of inspiring social action by the lay faithful. Over the years, the Church has modeled profound approaches in challenging the impunity of some state actors and errant power.
“But my Lords, I believe the times also call for speaking to the growing numbers of violent non state actors, some propagating genuine causes but with mindless violence often leading to the destruction of lives and property.
“I urge you to not only explore ways of strengthening the bonds of faith between your communities, but also of building bridges across every divide that threatens to fracture our nations.”
Speaking on the theme of this summit ‘Fratelli Tutti: Path to Build Brotherhood and Sustainable Peace in West Africa’, the President said that peace cannot reign in the region, if it does not first reign in individual communities and countries.
To this end, he said the Federal Government was committed to collaborating with the Church and all well-meaning actors in promoting peace and security.
According to him, “Our goals of unity and integration have always been thwarted not just by concerns of individual sovereignty of our nations but also by internal crisis and social conflicts in our nations and around the borders.
“Since 2017, there have been 12 military coups in Africa and half of them have occurred since 2020. Historically, in times like these, parochial prejudices are heightened and the fabric of cohesion becomes frayed as people retreat into ethnic, religious and other nativist camps. In all of these, the ideal of an integrated peaceful and prosperous subregion seems almost impossible.
“It is my hope that you will conceptualize ways of bringing the full weight of the immense moral authority that you possess upon our nations and in the sub-region as a whole. It is evident that we cannot create fraternity and harmony in West Africa without our faith communities.”
Work hard to deliver good governance to the people – RECOWA tells leaders
Delivering his address, the President, Reunion of Episcopal Conferences of West Africa (RECOWA), Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, asked political leaders to work harder to deliver good governance to the people.
He maintained that Catholic Bishops in the region, without becoming politically partisan, would continue to ring out their prophetic voices on behalf of the voiceless multitude suffering.
He said, “We know that in our region of West Africa, political governance in many cases is unfortunately not about service based on charity, justice, truth and transparency.
“We also face issues of youth unemployment, religious and ethnic crises, climate change, land grabbing; diseases even more deadly than the Covid-19 pandemic, money spent on arms instead of using it to remedy the crippling effect of hunger and to foster development; terrorist attacks, kidnappers’ menace, corruption, etc.
“We do not pretend that we have the solutions to the multidimensional political, security and social problems. The Church can only continue to play her role in educating the consciences of Christians, non-Christians and people of good will in our society.
“Leaders of the region must therefore use political power to create good governance rather than for personal advancement or allow religious, ethnic, economic or political interests to subordinate the common good. Leaders must enthrone merit, share resources equitably, and do away with the virus of corruption and self centeredness.”
Global problems require Int’l response, action – CBCN
In his remarks, the President of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Most Revd. Lucius Ugorji, said the international community must work together to develop new strategies to tackle global problems.
According to him, “Global problems demand global response and action in the spirit of co-responsibility, cooperation and collaboration.
“Thus in the face of myriads of problems bedevilling our countries today, such as poor governance, human rights abuse, poverty, unemployment, ethnocentrism, terrorism and organised crimes, human trafficking, organ trafficking, illegal arms trafficking, international debt burden, drug abuse, migration and the like, we must guide against the ‘culture of walls’ or ‘culture of indifference’.
“These socio-political and socio-cultural problems threaten peace and impede development in our different countries. They demand that we come together in solidarity as a human family to address them.”
Why West Africa’s underdeveloped – SAN
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the occasion, Damian Dodo (SAN), identified loss of respect for human dignity, selfishness, inordinate ambition for power and abuse of it, distorted sense of the sacred and the loss of the sense of service as the bane of West Africa’s underdevelopment.
He stressed that except for a few areas, these vices have significantly crippled the region and rendered the people incapable to realise their God given talents and beauty.
“Like many regions of the world, the West African region is embroiled in a crisis of terrorism, pandemics, hunger and untold hardship.
“Generally speaking, our people are hungry and distressed. They are dehumanised and traumatised. Our youth seem to find no hope at home and are exposed to very suicidal adventures on the high sea searching for a life.
“It is a time when we need the strong voice of the Church to restore hope to the despairing, to bring in positivity where negativity seems enthroned, love where hate exists, and fairness where prejudice reigns.
“We need the voice of the Church against the hardship occasioned by man’s inhumanity to man, the poor, the marginalised, and the indigent of the West African region.
“This voice is needed to call our governments to the consciousness of brotherhood to the people they rule. A call to build brotherhood means a move away from self-aggrandizement and insensitivity to the plight of the common man,” he said.