Avoid Turning “into ethnic champions”: Catholic Archbishop in Nigeria to Religious Leaders

A poster of the meeting of representatives of Catholics from different ethnic communities in Taraba State, Jalingo Diocese. Credit: Archdiocese of Abuja

The Archbishop of Abuja Archdiocese in Nigeria has told Catholic Priests and other religious leaders to keep off prejudices and narratives that may cause divisions among the people of God in what would turn them “into ethnic champions.” 

Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama who was speaking at the meeting of representatives of Catholics from different ethnic communities in Taraba State, Jalingo Diocese, regretted the fact that the people of God in the region have experienced ethnic and politically instigated violence over the years. 

Priests or religious leaders should avoid getting emotionally and sentimentally involved, taking sides, whipping up sentiments, playing the role of victims, and becoming heavily prejudiced,” Archbishop Kaigama said during the Saturday, March 26 event. 

The Nigerian Archbishop added that religious leaders “must be conscious that we are not influenced to turn into ethnic champions!”

“We should realize that the heavy prejudices and struggle for superiority keep us going in parallel lines and this is what results in the vicious circle of violence,” Archbishop Kaigama said. 


He emphasized, “We Catholic Priests especially should use our philosophical and theological resources to stand apart or distance ourselves from parochially divisive narratives that strain relationships further.”

In his message, the Local Ordinary of Abuja Archdiocese highlighted some of the issues that stir violence among the people of Taraba State.

“Dear Brothers and Sisters, beware of propaganda stories that stir youths to violence and more violence. Most of our people are Christians yet we hear stories of mutual atrocities,” the Catholic Archbishop said, and added, “The use of social media and exaggerated write-ups in conventional media are a great influence in perpetuating the crises.” 

He continued, “There is a serious inter-religious tension resulting in polarization in the State, which cannot be ignored.”

The 63-year-old Nigerian Archbishop called on the people of God in Taraba State to be involved in the peace process.

More in Africa

Addressing himself to politicians in Taraba State, he said, “Rise above ethnic interests to fight for the proper development of Taraba State through mechanized agriculture, modernized livestock projects.” 

“We plead with political actors, especially during this sensitive period preparatory to election campaigns, not to promote more hatred and destruction. Promote rather, the common good such as how to increase food production, alleviate poverty and utilize the vast potentials of the state in a peaceful and sensible manner,” the Archbishop of Abuja said. 

He went on to caution ethnic and religious leaders against the tendency to focus on other people’s mistakes and the passing of premature judgements, advocating for “moderate and reconciliatory utterances”. 

The Catholic Archbishop said, “Ethnic or religious leaders must see the log in their eye or the eye of their people before attempting to remove the log out of their brother’s or sister’s eye.”

“We would appreciate moderate and reconciliatory utterances or statements from political leaders, traditional leaders, religious leaders and elders who should speak the language of peace instead of war,” Archbishop Kaigama said.  


To all residents of Taraba State, the Archbishop said, “Transcend ethnic myopia/fanaticism and become the voice of reason and harmony.”

“Be a light that shines out. We have to decide to stop the crises, the hostilities, the needless killings and the destruction of means of livelihood. Nobody can do it for us. We can do it for ourselves with the help of God,” he said.

Meanwhile, in his homily on Sunday, March 27, Archbishop Kaigama called on Nigerians to pray for the people of God in Agban Kagoro, Kaura Local Government Area of Kaduna State, where at least 32 people were killed and 200 houses torched on March 20.  

Let us pray for Southern Kaduna and those areas in Nigeria where killings, kidnappings, and banditry seem to have become normal phenomena,” he said.

The Archbishop added, “We implore the help of our Blessed Mother to bring these killings and destruction to a rapid and definitive end, so that we can truly rejoice not only today, but always.”

(Story continues below)

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.