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Take Task of Uniting, Healing Nation “seriously”: Catholic Bishop to Christians in Nigeria

Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Nigeria's Sokoto Diocese. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Christians in Nigeria have a duty to take “seriously” the task of bringing unity and healing to their country, which “is fracturing and breaking apart by the day”, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese has said. 

In a message shared with ACI Africa Monday, October 18, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah urges followers of Christ in the West African nation to scrutinize their lives and see ways in which they could have contributed to the “crises that our nation faces today.”

“Our society is fracturing and breaking apart by the day. For us Christians that Jesus Himself prayed that we all be one, working for a united and peaceful world is our mission as Christians. We have a task to take our job as healers seriously,” Bishop Kukah says.

Reconciliation, the Nigerian Bishop adds, “is a fundamental part of the Christian faith and the reason is simple: Jesus came into a fallen world to reconcile it to God and the bridge on which we walk to that reconciliation is love.”

“Forgiveness is built into the DNA of all Christians,” the Local Ordinary of Sokoto Diocese who doubles as the Chairman of Dialogue and Mission at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) says in the message that was delivered at the 120th Founder’s Day Anniversary of the African Church October 12.

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“We as the body of Christ need therefore to re-examine ourselves, our messages and the extent to which, by action or inaction, we may have contributed to the crises that our nation faces today,” Bishop Kukah says. 

Christians are often tempted to think they are being wronged yet it is quite possible that we are the sinners and our actions or lack of them has compounded our situation, he observes. 

“Very often not sinning by acting does not mean that we are innocent,” the Catholic Bishops says, adding that Christians in the West African nation are dormant when it comes to speaking about the country's issues. 

He explains, “We have often taken the position of the monkey who believes that true peace lies in seeing nothing, saying nothing and doing nothing. The reasons for our doing nothing are often very complex and even innocent. The reasons could even be the measure of our being good men or women who do not wish to poke our noses into people’s businesses or we fear being misunderstood.”

The Bishop of Sokoto cautions Christians against laxity, saying they have a duty to speak about societal ills. 

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“In all situations of conflict, no matter the dangers, Christians are called upon to respond with the weapons of their moral authority,” says Bishop Kukah. 

Besides condemning ills in the society, Christians “can do much more depending on the conflict,” he further says in his message titled, “Firmly Rooted and Aiming Higher: Faith in a Time of Crisis.”

The 69-year-old Catholic Bishop goes on to offers suggestions on how Christians can act to salvage Nigeria’s situation.

First, he says, “Prayer remains the weapon of choice for the Christian. This is so because, as I said earlier, our Lord and Saviour was a Prince of Peace. In this world, Jesus said, you will have tribulations, but be of good cheer.”

Christians must see peace as the gift that they owe the world. Thus, the prayer of St. Francis must become our motto: Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Whether it is in moments of war, despair, hatred and all the evil in the world, the Christian is called upon to respond with the message of Peace,” he adds. 

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Second, Bishop Kukah says, Christians need to look at the challenging times as an opportunity to witness the Gospel. 

“We are in a nation with competing and even conflicting identities and theologies. Some believe in a form of theocracy while others come from a tradition of separation of Church and State. Either way, the challenge for Christians is to see crises, conflicts as opportunities to witness the Gospel,” Bishop Kukah says. 

He explains, “Apart from prophetic witnessing by proclamation of the message of Jesus Christ, that is, a message of non-violence, there are symbolisms that Churches can adopt. An example is public call to Prayer or renewed spirituality. This can be in the form of set days for prayers and fasting or both.”

Thirdly, the Bishop Chairman of Dialogue and Mission at CBCN says the people of God can pay solidarity visits to areas of conflict. 

“This solidarity can be expressed by rallying resources as it was in the days of the Apostles to support the Churches in difficulties,” he says, adding that this kind of public witnessing is important because it always gives believers an opportunity to share with the less fortunate across faiths. 

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Through solidarity visits to areas of conflict, “non-believers can see the meaning of our faith,” says Bishop Kukah.

To salvage Nigeria’s situation, the Nigerian Bishop also suggests that Christians “open up our understanding of what constitutes insecurity beyond being victims of physical violence.”

“It is important for us to note that indeed, hunger, injustice, poverty, squalor, all that deface the face of a human being created in the image and likeness of Jesus Christ, are all manifestations of violence,” Bishop Kukah observes. 

He adds in the message he delivered at the 120th Founder’s Day Anniversary of the African Church, “Our fight for a good society therefore does not end as long as there are hungry and poor people, as long as there are fellow citizens who are living below the standards of human existence.”