“Don’t Put Religion Above The Constitution of The Nigerian Nation” – Archbishop Kaigama at Laity Council Meeting
“No one has ever won a war in Nigeria, because any war we fight will only take us back socially and economically to those dark brute days of ‘survival of the fittest.’ ”
The Catholic Archbishop of Jos, who triples as President of the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria and President of the Catholic Bishops of Africa, Most Revd Dr Ignatius Kaigama, made the observation on Saturday, while declaring open the 133rd Catholic Laity Council of Nigeria (NEC) meeting holding at St. Monica’s Parish, Rantya, in Jos.
According to him, “The knives, swords, the bombs and guns have not brought victory to anyone,” adding that, “when you hear of youth from the North East, South East and the Niger Delta area threatening to destroy the economy, so where is the unity and the corporate existence of the nation; the question is – do they know the implications of war?”
He said, “We have experienced the sad effects of war, and why trying to go that way again?” He called on parents to teach their children to be good ambassadors of peace, not war.
The archbishop further observed that, there was a time when highly placed religious and political leaders saw those who spoke or promoted dialogue as compromisers.
He further observing that teaching the young people to be hostile to their so-called ‘enemies’ instead of culture of dialogue, has led some of the youths to perfect the art of killing and destruction at any slightest provocation.
According to him, it is great that there are many NGOs today working for dialogue, reconciliation and peace, saying, “let us keep talking to one another frequently, openly and sincerely, and peace will come and remain.”
He called on all the lay associations to unite under the umbrella of the Catholic Laity Council of Nigeria, while maintaining their autonomy to a formidable Catholic presence in Nigeria.
The archbishop said, evangelization, which is passing-on-the-faith, should be their priority, and should try and make a difference in the socio-political life of the nation.
According to him, “Faith and work must mix in a healthy way but not in a fanatical way like those who try to put religion above the constitution or government.”
He said they are expected to witness about the goodness of their religions and to use the values of their religions to improve social services, but not to woo people, force and intimidate them to join their religion.
“Conversion borne out of fear or coercion or the promise of material wealth is, in fact, ridiculing religion,” he said, while maintaining that, “many Christian parents do not know the faith enough, not to talk of living it and passing it on to their children, because some of their daughters marry anyhow – lured by material wealth or attractions – and some parents encourage them to do so.”
Speaking also, the plateau state governor, Barr Simon Lalong, said, as people of faith in their various vocations, the Laity Council has an important role to play in the promotion and sustenance of peace in their various areas of domicile.
He urged them to also contribute their quota in the spiritual business of promoting peace and the rehabilitation of people who were badly affected by conflict in their various communities.
“As evangelical mechanisms of reaching out to the rural populace, you should continue to accommodate this aspect of human need,” he said.
The President of the Laity in the Jos Archdiocese, Boniface B. Gwotbit (KSM), said Jos was not meant for the hosting of this NEC meeting; it was to be in Maiduguri Province, but after analyzing the (security) situation, it was then Jos was asked to host.
He said their province is made up these dioceses: Maiduguri, Yola, Jalingo, Bauchi, Shendam, Pankshin and the Archdiocese of Jos.
The President of the Jos Provincial Laity Council, Mr Abel Pam Fom (KSM), said the province has increased from the hitherto six dioceses to seven, with Pankshin as the newest.