“Silence is complicity”: Nigerian Cardinal Encourages Catholic Church Leaders to “speak out against injustice”

John Cardinal Onaiyekan

John Cardinal Onaiyekan has encouraged Catholic Church leaders in the West African nation of Nigeria to speak out against injustices in the country.

In a report following the inauguration of the Catholic Social Teaching (CST) program at the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) headquartered in the country’s Catholic Archdiocese Abuja, Cardinal Onaiyekan is quoted as saying, “We cannot afford to remain silent in the face of injustice.”

“Silence is complicity, and we must speak out against injustice wherever we see it,” the Archbishop emeritus of Nigeria’s Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja is quoted as saying in the report published Monday, June 24.

He adds, “As Catholic Bishops, we are often interviewed and make powerful political statements. Nobody can stop us from doing that because it is part of our job. We have a responsibility to teach the right things, even if it means facing criticism from politicians.”

Whenever Catholic Church leaders are vocal over societal issues, the Nigerian Cardinal said, “politicians hail us; but when we criticize them and warn them that they are not doing well, they get angry with us, accusing us of dabbling in politics. But politics is not for politicians alone; it’s for everyone.”


The Cardinal who started his Episcopal Ministry in January 1983 as Auxiliary Bishop of Nigeria’s Ilorin Diocese emphasized the need for Church leader to teach, adding that the implementation of these teachings depends on those who embrace them.

“We teach the right things, but it’s up to those concerned to take the teaching and work on it. We don’t have the facility to force politicians to do the right thing; we only have the word of mouth, our message,” he said.

The 80-year-old Nigerian Cardinal who retired as Archbishop of Nigeria’s Abuja Archdiocese in November 2019 likened Christian persecutions in his native country to Jesus’ persecutors, who had listened to Him for a long time.  

“Even Jesus taught for three years, and it was the same people He taught who rallied around and crucified Him on the cross,” Cardinal Onaiyekan said.

Jesus’ persecutors, he recounted, “heard His message, but they didn’t take it. It’s the same today: those who listen to good wisdom will do well; and the people will profit from them.”

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Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.