, 16 January, 2020 / 1:50 AM
The rise of the Catholic Television of Nigeria (CTV) is a story of immense struggle much as it is inspiring in an African country that continues to witness arguably the worst form of religious oppression perpetrated by the Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram, ACI Africa has been told.
It is a story of hope that now illumines millions of Christians who have remained in the dark since the advent of television broadcasting in Nigeria more than five decades ago. In fact, Nigeria was the first country to introduce television broadcasting in Africa in 1959. But since then, TV has been promoted more for political interests than social and religious growth in the West African country.
However, media visibility for Christians has been gaining momentum since the launch of CTV some 10 years ago in the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja. The highlight of CTV’s presence was a high-end celebration of the TV’s 10th anniversary that drew attendance from different dioceses all over Nigeria. The Christian television channel also celebrated the smooth running of its 24-hour uninterrupted transmission in the ceremony that was also attended by prominent figures in government. CTV’s 24-hour TV channel commenced on November 17, 2017.
Fr. Patrick Alumuku who founded CTV and saw it rise from a humble beginning said the growth of the television to a 24-hour channel signified hope and a new beginning for Christians in Nigeria.
“It is a moment to unite all Christians in Nigeria who have been left in the cold for years. It is a moment to preach to them the Gospel of hope in the face of persecution from Islamists who want dominance in this country. It is a moment of hope,” said Fr Alumuku in an interview with ACI Africa Tuesday, January 14.
He added, “CTV will be a Christian voice that will be uniting Christians in west Africa, Central Africa and even in southern parts of Africa where we now have a reach via satellite.”
Fr Alumuku who doubles as the Director of Communications in the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja, said Christians all over the world continue to face a threat from Islamist groups that seek to convert everyone to Islam.
Of dire interest, however, is the northern part of Nigeria where Christians continued to face abductions and killings. In one of the latest reported attacks, 11 Christians in Nigeria’s Borno State were killed on Christmas Day by a terrorist group affiliated to the Islamic State (IS).
“I believe we are in an era where Muslim fundamentalists are creating the impression that the world needs to be taken over by Muslims. They have succeeded in places such as Turkey, Syria and even closer home in Egypt. But that is in the past. We are living in a world where Christians have come up more powerfully to stamp their presence in places where they exist all over the world,” the Nigerian cleric said.
He expressed concern that few Christians understand the extend of the threat that Islamist groups pose.
“Christians haven’t been working together as a strong force united by their faith. We have many Christians in different parts of Nigeria who have for a long time remained disunited in complete oblivion of the threat that faces them,” said Fr. Alumuku, adding that “it is time that the jihadi found us united in our faith when they come to attack us. They will find a strong group of Christians that will be difficult to attack.”
Today, CTV stands out as a success story in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria. Fr. Alumuku recalls that Abuja was initially uninhabited.
“Abuja was a virgin land before it was made the capital city of Nigeria. But when this happened, many people came to settle in from all walks of life, accounting to the current population of about 2 Million people. Of these, slightly over a million are Christians while the rest subscribe to Islam and other religions,” he explains, adding that residents of Abuja are fairly accommodative to each other’s religious affiliations.
“There is no bias of any kind in Abuja. We are as balanced as Nigeria is in terms of our varied religious affiliations. In fact, when Cardinal John Onaiyekan was still here, he was a very popular man who was loved by everyone, Muslims and Christians alike,” says Fr. Alumuku.
But not all places are as accommodative as Abuja. In a past report, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of the Archdiocese of Jos, Nigeria, highlighting examples of poor treatment of Christians in the northern part of Nigeria said that in some Muslim-majority states, Islamic religious knowledge is included in the curriculum of primary and secondary schools while the teaching of Christian religious knowledge is prohibited.
Additionally, in many Muslim-majority societies in northern Nigeria, Christians are denied permits to build Churches while Muslims can build mosques anywhere, Fr. Alumuku confirmed.
“In northern Nigeria, selling land towards the construction of Churches and brothels is prohibited while mosques are constructed everywhere. In this way, Christians are equated to prostitutes and harlots,” the Nigerian Priest bemoans.
There have also been past reports of political leaders causing a rift between Christians and Muslims in Africa’s most populous nation.
“In a country where 50 per cent of the population are Christians, a majority of political leaders are Muslims who are trying to create Islamic dominance,” the Nigerian Cleric observed.
According to a recent report, Nigeria’s population is evenly divided between Muslims and Christians. The Church in Nigeria has one of the most dynamic evangelical and missionary movements in Africa and in the whole world, with about 7,200 missionaries and a missional presence in about 196 countries.
Fr. Alumuku who completed his doctoral studies in Communications in Rome and proceeded to work at Vatican Radio for 12 years was charged with the responsibility of establishing the Catholic Television by Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan (now emeritus).
He recalls the humble beginning on January 1, 2010 with no camera, no cameraman and no studio. “It was a struggle but the TV has been sustainable through the 10 years. We began with a 15-minute programme on national TV, then grew to our own 24-hour broadcast,” Fr. Alumuku recounts.
The other challenge that the Catholic TV which relied on Christians’ donations to pay its staff was lack of Catholic music content.
“When we started, we didn’t have Catholic music to play on our new TV. In Nigeria, protestants have been huge in the media; one can imagine the challenge of starting a Catholic TV and having to play protestant songs throughout. We had to do something,” he says.
The first compilation of Catholic songs that CTV recorded was “Credo, do you believe” that Fr Alumuku says has become a sensation in the Catholic music industry. The album, which has garnered close to a million views on YouTube also won five out of eight awards at the 2017 Nigerian Catholic Film and Music Festivals that were held in Enugu, southeastern Nigeria.
The accolade, together with the TV’s other breakthroughs including its reach in many parts of Africa, has encouraged Christians in these parts of Africa to embrace media, the Nigerian priest says.
“There are many youths now coming forward to evangelize through singing. They compose songs knowing that they now have a place where their songs can be played,” he testified.
Fr. Alumuku also hinted to ACI Africa that CTV is planning to change its model of operation from a charitable organization to a commercial model where it will be generating income from sponsored content while remaining true to spreading the gospel of Christ as a Catholic TV.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa