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Catholic Biblical Scholars in Nigeria Urge Leaders “to make integrity their rule of life”

Representation of Integrity, seen as mutually exclusive with corruption

At a time when many African countries are grappling with the menace of corruption and some Church leaders raising their voices against the vice in their respective countries, Catholic scholars in Scripture from Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria reflected about the challenge of corruption in society at a recent meeting.

Guided by the theme “Integrity and Corruption in the Bible,” the members submitted that corruption and integrity are mutually exclusive and called on members of society, including Church leaders to cultivate the virtue of integrity, making it “their rule of life and the guiding principle in all their dealings.”

“Corruption occurs wherever integrity is compromised or is lacking in any facet of human life,” reads in part the communique issued by the Catholic Biblical Association of Nigeria (CABAN) availed to ACI Africa November Monday, November 25.

While recognizing the pervasive nature of corruption in society, permeating “all aspects and sectors of human life” and applying “to individuals who are corrupt or to groups who corrupt themselves and their dealings,” the members of CABAN traced the manifestations of the vice from scripture.

“In the Bible corruption manifests itself in diverse ways, including falsehood, dishonesty, cheating others, misappropriation of the common good, oppression of the poor and the marginalized; the use of religion itself to serve personal needs and all forms of idolatry,” the members who gathered for their 12th annual conference in Nigeria’s Akure city in Ondo State stated.

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“We decry the diminishing virtue of integrity and the pervasiveness of corruption in society,” CABAN members drawn from different parts of Nigeria and the overseas stated at the end of their four-day convention and added, “The world badly needs integrity in all walks of life and in all human endeavours at the personal, family, community, societal and ecclesial levels.”

They took note of the reality of corruption within the Church institution saying, “Corruption which is endemic in society has also crept into all levels of the church” and illustrated, “Flagrant aspects of corruption in the church include loss of prophetic witnessing, personal ambition, misuse and misinterpretation of the Bible for gain; using the church’s sacred liturgy and priesthood in the service of the god mammon; uncontrolled craving for money, power; obsession with prestigious projects at the expense of “God’s building ”, the people (Eph 2:10-11), and subversive ways of selling sacramentals and even charging money for requested prayers.”

As a way forward, the members of the 12-year-old entity made a passionate appeal to leaders in society including those with responsibility over members of the Church.

“We strongly call on all, especially civil and ecclesiastical leaders, to make integrity their rule of life and the guiding principle in all their dealings,” CABAN members state in their two-page communique and add, “All must commit themselves to cultivating and sustaining integrity and to shunning and eliminating corruption in all its forms, even if it brings suffering and rejection.”

“We recognize that personal determination and commitment play fundamental role in our communal fight against corruption in church and society,” the communique signed by CABAN President, Sr. Prof. Teresa Okure and the Secretary, Fr. Luke Ijezie reads, the association members encouraging “moral education and regeneration,” a feat that “requires the formation and reawakening of good conscience; giving good example in the family, in schools (especially in the early stages of children’s education) and in the church; and making the fight against corruption an integral agenda in all church and societal institutions.”

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In their considered view, integrity “entails cultivating truth in the heart, (which is) the seat of life; and allowing biblical values and ethics of social justice, honesty, sound morality and truth in relationship (with God, with other human beings and with creation) to infuse and permeate every aspect of our human life.”

“We all must make relentless efforts at the personal and communal levels to uphold integrity and shun corruption in all its forms in church and society; remembering that “the integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them,” the members in the conference, among them Bishops, priests, religious, and representatives of some pastoral associations of the diocese of Ondo diocese concluded, quoting Proverbs 11:3.