Catholic Bishop in Nigeria Says Intimidation Has Become a Survival Technique in Country

Bishop Peter Ebere Okpaleke of Nigeria's Ekwulobia Diocese. Credit: Ekwulobia Diocese

Violence in Nigeria is on the rise and the people are intimidating others for survival, the Catholic Bishop of Nigeria’s Ekwulobia Diocese has said.

In his Thursday, March 3 Lenten message, Bishop Peter Ebere Okpaleke urged the people of God in the West African country to make peace with each other and to learn to live with “cordiality and solidarity” with each other especially as they prepare for the Easter celebration.

“Violence – physical, verbal and psychological – seems to be on the rise in our communities,” Bishop Ebere said, and added, “Aggression and intimidation are being raised to a style of life and technique for survival. Yet at the core of our Christian calling is the enthronement of a ‘civilization of love’ as Pope St. John Paul II formulated it.”

“It is therefore necessary for us to review our attitude towards violence on the one hand, reconciliation, respect for one another, cordiality and solidarity on the other,” he said.

In his message drawn from the Gospel of Matthew under the theme, “Go and Be Reconciled with Your Brother First”, Bishop Ebere noted that Jesus explicitly forbade those who have something against another from offering any gift to God before effecting a reconciliation. 


“In the unlikely event that they forgot and were already on the line to make their offering and there remembered that they have outstanding issues with someone, they should step aside from the offertory line and go and get reconciled first before coming back to make their offering,” the Nigerian Catholic Bishop said.

He said that Jesus’ teaching on the need to make peace with each other deepens the meaning of offertory.

According to the Local Ordinary of Ekwulobia Diocese, offertory is not simply a way of supporting the Church from the gifts God has given one.

“Offertory, like the Holy Eucharist, is a mode of communion with God, an expression of love of God which must include love of one’s brothers and sisters for it to be authentic,” he said, and explained that in the offertory, one takes from among God’s gift to one and gives back in thanksgiving to God and in acknowledgement of one’s union with God.

“As an expression of communion with God and with others, it makes sense that one should not be angry with one’s brother and sister; denigrate or excludes one’s brother or sister socially,” Bishop Ebere said, and added, “Any of these actions and attitudes detracts from communion notwithstanding the ease with which human beings slide into them.”

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He highlighted the need for the people of God to acknowledge the gravity of anger and denigrating words, saying, “Words are windows into the heart. That is why Scripture tells us that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

The Catholic Bishop underlined the need to be careful with words used against others and noted that “every action starts as a thought or a stirring of the heart which could be expressed in words or translated into action.”

“Effective policing of words is not only a way of inculcating mental hygiene but also of mitigating the consequences of words on others. The Epistle of James (3:1-12) highlights the potency of words. He shows that the tongue can set fire to the whole wheel of creation,” Bishop Ebere said.

He added, “Some people’s lives have been turned upside down with words just as words could also heal. The injunction of Jesus underlines this power of words while also demanding a quick response to neutralize the possible harmful effect of any careless or inappropriate word or action. Like kerosene, any unresolved issue or hurting/hateful word tends to spread by its momentum, contaminating everything.”

The Bishop of Ekwulobia said that as part of the Lenten observance, the people of God must learn to abstain from hurtful words. 


“Let forgiveness be the gift we give as alms to those who have hurt us and to all, the commitment to work for the emergence of an environment conducive for integral human flourishing by sowing seeds of goodness as the Holy Father Pope Francis, challenges us in his Lenten Message, titled ‘Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up,’” Bishop Ebere said.

“When we have the opportunity, let us do good to all,” he further said, and added, “May our prayer during this period and always be directed towards losing ourselves in the warm embrace and communion with God. It is only in such loss of self in God that we can find ourselves and others in God.”

“I commend you to the maternal intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as we embark on this Lenten journey seeking reconciliation, respect and reverence of one another and greater communion with God and with one another,” the Nigerian Catholic Bishop 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.