, 07 December, 2020 / 6:05 PM
The lack of respect for land heritage and claims for racial superiority are behind conflicts in contemporary society, members of the Catholic Biblical Association of Nigeria (CABAN) have said.
In a communiqué shared with ACI Africa Sunday, December 6, CABAN members say that “most of the conflicts in our contemporary societies are land-related” and that claims for “racial superiority and ownership of the land against their original inhabitants” have brought suffering to many, including the people of God in Africa.
“The biblical story of Naboth’s vineyard reminds us that every land has a history of inheritance of the people dwelling on it; this heritage must be respected,” the members of CABAN say, making reference to the first book of Kings.
They add, “Human beings suffer when their history is neglected, suppressed and denigrated. Those who commit such offences do so in defiance of the Creator and provoke God’s anger on themselves and their family.”
In a statement shared with ACI Africa along with the communiqué, the President of CABAN, Sr. Teresa Okure notes that land is a key issue in race and racism as it defines “where one belongs and does not belong, who is a native and who is not” and presents a set of complex situations that sometimes lead to conflict.
“It (land) is the issue in Nigeria and Africa… it is the issue in Fulani herdsmen and the natives,” says Sr. Okure, whose insights were drawn from a three-day conference that CABAN members held at the beginning of November aimed at deliberating on “the connection between human beings, race and land in the Bible.”
Organized under the theme, “The Bible on Human Beings, Race and Land”, the 3-5 November thirteenth annual conference brought together participants from Nigeria and beyond who followed the proceedings virtually.
Participants were told that land-related conflicts had been heightened by mass migrations and internal displacements of peoples (IDPs) and land grabbing.
Previous reports have also indicated that the ongoing conflict in Nigeria where estimates suggest that over 400 Christians have been killed by the Fulani herdsmen in 2020 alone is more resource-driven than it is religious as it has been widely reported.
In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International, Fr. Blaise Agwon, Director of Catholic-founded Centre for Dialogue, Reconciliation and Peace (DREP Centre) in Jos, Nigeria said that the conflict in the country’s Middle Belt region is more a resource conflict than a religious one.
“The conflict in the Middle Belt may appear as a religious conflict because it is between the herdsmen who are predominantly Muslim and the farmers who are predominantly Christian. However, it is more of a resource conflict than a religious one,” said Fr. Blaise.
In the Cleric’s considered opinion, it is only the religious fault line that makes the conflict appear as a religious conflict. However, he underscored, the conflict is resource-based mainly over land and water for farming and grazing.
Fr. Blaise said that owing to the shrinking of the Lake Chad basin, which until now provides the means of livelihood for over 40 million people, there is mass movement of both humans, animals and even birds and reptiles towards the middle belt due to the effects of desertification.
The movement, the Cleric explained, has resulted in serious competition over resources such as water and land, for farming and gazing, for building and other economic activities. This, according to Fr. Blaise, has in turn created tension amongst the people.
Quoting the Books of Exodus and Deuteronomy in the communique shared with ACI Africa December 6, the leadership of CABAN notes that land belongs to God “who gives it to human beings for their use.”
“The land is for the benefit of all earth’s creatures; humans created in God’s image and likeness have the mandate to take care of it as their ‘common home’ and the home of other earth’s creatures as Pope Francis says in Laudato Si,” the CABAN members say in their collective statement signed by their leadership.
“The land itself has been grossly exploited and abused. Humans have died, been maimed and dispossessed of their heritage,” the scholars observe, explaining their assertion that most of the conflicts in contemporary societies are land-related.
The Biblical scholars say that the resources in Mother Earth are for the progress and welfare of every human being.
In the communiqué that went through multiple reviews following the 3-5 November conference, CABAN members reiterate that today, the same resources with which God has blessed the land have generated all kinds of conflict.
“The ongoing killings in Nigeria, for example, are connected with the rich land resources God has bestowed on its citizens. Destruction of the life of any human being for whatever reason is a crime; it is against the will of the Creator and the clear message of the Bible,” CABAN members say, making reference to the Books of Exodus, Deuteronomy and Sirach.
They add, “We are all brothers and sisters. No one has the right to end the life of another human being or ethnic group in order to usurp their land resources.”
During their three-day conference held through Zoom Cloud, CABAN members also tackled the problem of racism and racial differences and said that no nation has the right to claim superiority over another on account of the differences.
“Every culture has its own values,” they said, and added, “Most African cultures, for instance, are hospitable and welcoming to strangers.”
“The problem arises when new settlers forcefully or subtly claim racial superiority and ownership of the land against their original inhabitants,” CABAN members say in the communique co-signed by CABAN President, Sr. Okure and Fr. Dr. Luke Ijezie who is the Secretary of CABAN.
“This problem can be avoided if newcomers eschew their hidden agenda to claim hegemony and false racial superiority over the indigenous peoples,” they suggest, adding, “We see this being sadly played out in most parts of Nigeria, Africa and other parts of the world. On the authority of Scripture, such subversive agenda must be rejected outright.”
During the conference, the scripture scholars also deliberated on the topic of responsible leadership and noted that every authority comes from God and that it is for a good purpose.
Leaders, the Biblical scholars say, have the responsibility to protect human life, land and property and to ensure that human dignity is respected by all.
When leaders fail in their duties, citizens suffer greatly, they emphasize.
“Most human-inflicted hardships can be attributed to irresponsible stewardship of leaders. Structures that discriminate and dehumanize human persons on the grounds of religion, ethnicity, tribe, gender or political affiliation, whatever their ideology, must be dismantled,” CABAN members say in their statement shared with ACI Africa December 6.
Subscribe to our Free Daily ACI Africa Newsletter
At ACI Africa, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news from Africa, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church – so that you can grow in your Catholic faith and awareness about the people of God in Africa.
When you subscribe to the ACI Africa Updates, we will send you a daily email with links to the news you need.
Use the form below to tell us where we can send the ACI Africa Updates
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
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