Scripture Not a Weapon for Attacking Others, Catholic Bishop in Nigeria Says

Bishop Godfrey Onah of Nigeria’s Nsukka Diocese. Credit: Nsukka Diocese

Misinterpretation of the word of God is causing rancor among Christians, the Bishop of Nigeria’s Catholic Diocese of Nsukka has noted, and cautioned the people of God in the West African country against using the Scripture to attack people belonging to other denominations.

In his homily on the celebration of this year’s Sunday of the Word of God, Bishop Godfrey Onah pointed out the tendency by Christians to pick out passages from Scripture to wage war against others.

“Let us remember that the word of God is not a stone quarry where we go to pick up stones, which we use to attack one another. The word of God is a deposit for construction and the building of a people,” Bishop Onah said in the Sunday, January 23 homily.

“St. Paul tells us in the second letter to Timothy that all Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness so that we’ll all be happy and joyous children of God,” the Nigerian Catholic Bishop said, and added, “Scripture does not exist so that we use passages of Scripture to attack one another.”

Bishop Onah noted the importance of this year’s Sunday of the Word of God being celebrated within the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity saying, “Today we pray for the unity of all Christians across the world because although we are all nourished by the Scripture, our attitude to that scripture is different from one person to the other and that attitude has become the source of division among us.”


The Bishop of Nsukka Diocese noted that most quarrels amongst Christian denominations are not about the truth of the love of God shown in Christ but “struggle for power… struggle for who controls this and who controls that.”

“Beginning from origin to date, what is dividing us is struggle for power and not the love for Christ, especially the love for the less privileged ones,” he said, and implored, “May the word of God act, perform in our lives and bring about the best in each of us so that so that we’ll all be united by this word into one body.”

“We pray that Christians all over the world will read the word of God and allow the word of God to act inside us in such a way that we understand the central meaning of that word; the central truth which is one and stop quarreling amongst ourselves,” Bishop Onah said.

He underlined the need for Christians to express each other’s understanding of the word of God saying, “It is important for us to note that although each of us receives the spirit … it is our unity as Christians that the outpouring of the Spirit is received in its fullness.”

“St. Peter reminds us in his second letter that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of personal interpretation because no prophecy came from the will of a human being but the Spirit of God moved human beings to speak in the name of God. If you have to understand Scripture and interpret it properly, you have to be moved by the Spirit,” the Catholic Bishop said.  

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He called upon preachers and other people responsible for explaining the word of God to the people to look at the act of preaching the word of God as “a very sacred moment.”

“I plead with those who have the responsibility to explain the Scripture to the people of God, that is not the time to abuse the people or quarrel with the people or to make gestures of fun and jokes. It is a very sacred moment,” Bishop Onah said.

He added, “People are gathered with all eyes, minds and hearts hoping to take away one thing on which they will cling for the rest of the week yet you are abusing them, shouting, quarreling. When all eyes are fixed on us, let us remember that the people want to experience Jesus, the Word of God.”

Meanwhile, Bishop Onah has called upon leaders in Nigeria, including those who ascended to power through “wrong means,” to make up for it by serving the people wholeheartedly.

Making reference to Sunday’s first reading from the Book of Nehemiah, Bishop Onah recalled that although Nehemiah was appointed by a Persian pagan king, he knew the duty he owed to his people.


“You public office holder, you may have come to power through the wrong means; but if you find yourself there, be a Nehemiah. Work for your people. This is not the case of ‘the end justifies the means’. No. But at least so that the good you do may make up for the evil way through which you came to power,” the Local Ordinary of Nsukka Diocese said.

He added, “In our country today, many of our leaders got into positions of leadership through the wrong means. Many of those who are governing us today in democracy were not chosen by us. They were imposed on us either by the so-called stakeholders who I always say are obstacles to governance in Nigeria.”

Bishop Onah further said that the only thing that “the so-called stakeholders” do is “to carry moneybags and obstruct governance and make sure that the governance never gets to the people.”

“These stakeholders impose leaders on us,” the Nigerian Bishop said, and added, “Manipulative electoral processes impose leaders on us. This is bad in a democracy and it starts from the so-called election of town union executive. Many of the people who are town union representative did not come from the choice of the people, let alone the Igwes (traditional rulers in Igboland).”

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.