Religious Leaders Have Become Social Activists, Catholic Bishop in Nigeria Says

Bishop Godfrey Onah of Nigeria’s Nsukka Diocese. Credit: Nsukka Diocese/Facebook

Religious leaders are yielding to the temptation to act as social activists instead of speaking the mind of God, the Bishop of Nigeria’s Catholic Diocese of Nsukka has observed.

In a message published on Tuesday, January 4, Bishop Godfrey Onah invited all Religious leaders to follow the example of John the Baptist in the Bible who isolated himself from the rest of the society to seek guidance from God before speaking to the people.

“The temptation, even for Religious leaders of today in Nigeria, is to follow the political trend instead of remaining in isolation and prayer and being permeated by the word of God so that when they speak, they will be repeating the mind of God,” Bishop Onah said.

The Nigerian Bishop added in reference to Religious leaders in the West African country, “Some have become social activists, just repeating the exhortations and clamors of the crowd, picking up information from social media and creating fear and anxiety among the people.”

When such leaders speak, Bishop Onah observed, they are not even sure of what they are saying.


“That was not the language of John who received the word of God. That voice in the desert was clear and undiplomatic,” the Local Ordinary of Nigeria’s Nsukka  Diocese said.

He explained that the word of God came to John the Baptist, who had spent long years in isolation in prayer in the desert, communing with his God, “not listening to social media, not just repeating public opinion, but communing directly with his God and forming his character.”

Bishop Onah also explained broadly the contrast between the political powers, including powerful Biblical characters and what he described as “the non-entity of John”.

“Caesar was powerful. His power extended from Rome to many parts of Asia and Africa and he appointed governors all around. These emperors were very powerful. Pontius Pilate, knowing he had the mandate of the most powerful man on earth then, was also a very ruthless man who did not care for justice,” Bishop Onah narrated.

He added, in reference to Pontius Pilate, “Like some of our lawyers seated here and the judges they appear before in court, he would see the truth and still use the technicalities of the law and evade the truth and proclaim injustice in the place of justice.”

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Pontius Pilate, the Nigerian Catholic Bishop recalled, found no reason to condemn Jesus but he did not have the courage to let the Messiah go because he did not want to lose his political power.

The powerful emperors, Bishop Onah said, “have now been swept under the carpet of the pages of history.” Such leaders who were once considered powerful, he said, can only be remembered by curious scholars.

“Like Pontius Pilate, so many of the political powers in history will be remembered only for the evil they did,” Bishop Onah said, and explained, “Every day we profess our faith, we say that Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate.”

He said that many of our presidents, governors, local government chairmen, ministers and commissioners will be remembered in history only for the evil and suffering they have caused the people.

“Hitler is still remembered today, Mussolini is still remembered, Nero is still remembered, but for what? For evil,” Bishop Onah said.


“Why is John who had no children, without a house, without chariots, without cars, without personal jets remembered today and his story is told triumphantly whereas the Caesars, the Herods and all the High Priests of the time are mentioned only as appendices in history?” the Catholic Bishop posed, and offered, “Character.”

“There is a difference between a man of power and a man of character,” he said.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.