Police Brutality Protests in Nigeria Offered Prospect for “Church to guide youths”: Bishop

Young people during protests in Lagos, Nigeria, October 17, 2020, over alleged police brutality.

Peaceful protests against police brutality in Nigeria presented an opportunity for the Catholic Church in the West African nation to guide young people on their quest for a better society, a Catholic Bishops has said in a statement.

In the November 10 statement, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Nigeria’s Sokoto Diocese reflects about Nigeria’s youth-led protests that called for an end to the now defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in October. After the disbandment of SARS, the protesters demanded reforms in the country’s structure of governance.

“The youths secured some quick wins by forcing the hands of the government to respond to their demands,” Bishop Kukah says and adds, “In the long run, however, the future depends on whether the youths can hold their lines of seeking a better society or if they will become seduced and coopted by the political class.” 

For this reason, the Prelate says, the protests have been “a great opportunity for the Church to guide its youth so as to guarantee a firm moral foundation for politics in our country.”

Looking back at the protests, Bishop Kukah continues, it is possible to “have a youth movement that is guided by the ethos of the Catholic Church.”

“Through this, we could hopefully avoid the nihilism of the youth movements of the 1960s in Europe which laid the foundation for the moral decay and the deep secularism today,” the Nigerian Bishop further says.

In his reflection, Bishop Kukah seeks inspiration from Pope Francis’ new Encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, which he says could be used to “offer a torch for our young Catholics to help light up a society riddled with divisions and injustice.”

“Fratelli Tutti emphasizes the moral imperative of dialogue,” he says and explains in reference to religious intolerance in Africa’s most populous nation, “Religion has been invoked as a major fault factor in violence in our society (such as the actions of Boko Haram).”

He adds, “The Holy Father addresses the issues of the global movement of people, and the youth constitute a huge number in this regard.”

The Bishop continues in reference to Fratelli Tutti, “The Encyclical’s appeal to political responsibility, using the story of the good Samaritan to address the issues of moral obligations in a diverse society such as ours should have great appeal to the youth.”

“When the Pope Francis speaks of politics as a lofty vocation, one lofty form of charity and a platform for the pursuit of the common good, these themes should resonate with young people who need to understand these values as they are stepping into public life,” says the Local Ordinary of Sokoto. 

In the November 10 reflection, Bishop Kukah goes on to highlight some of the lessons young people in Nigeria can learn from their #END SARS protests.

“Their show of discipline and solidarity for one another was quite commendable,” the 68-year-old Bishop says, adding, “The sight of Christians shielding Muslims in prayer and vice versa in a highly-polarized environment like Nigeria, was significant.”

He further notes that the “youth showed that they no longer fear their leaders” and that “it is the leaders who will learn to fear the people.”

“Nothing like this had ever happened in Nigeria and no one expected it to happen at the time it did,” Bishop Kukah says.

He however notes that “in the medium and long terms, we concluded that as a faith community, we need to derive moral inspiration from the Church’s social teachings.”

“With this, we can provide ingredients for the pursuit of the common good,” Bishop Kukah says in his November 10 reflection obtained by ACI Africa.

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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
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