THE President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Tuesday, called on Nigeria’s Catholic bishops to keep on speaking truth to power and extend their message of change to violent non-state actors.
According to him, some of them are propagating genuine causes but with mindless brutality.
Buhari, who was represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, spoke at the opening of the 4th Plenary Assembly of the Reunion of Episcopal Conferences of West Africa, which held in Abuja with the theme, ‘Fratelli Tutti: Path to build brotherhood and sustainable peace in West Africa.’
He said the West African sub-region was passing through a season of considerable political, economic and social turmoil, but challenged the bishops to play active roles in building brotherhood and sustainable peace.
He said, “Indeed, the Catholic Church and the Bishops conference have established a reputation for speaking truth to power in consonance with the highest prophetic traditions and by continuing its illustrious practice of inspiring social action by the lay faithful. Over the years, the Church has modelled profound approaches in challenging the impunity of some state actors and errant power.
“But I believe the times also call for speaking to the growing numbers of violent non-state actors, some propagating genuine causes but with mindless violence often leading to the destruction of lives and property.
“I urge you to not only explore ways of strengthening the bonds of faith between your communities, but also of building bridges across every divide that threatens to fracture our nations.”
The president said peace cannot reign in the region if it does not first reign in individual communities and countries.
To this end, he said the Federal Government was committed to collaborating with the church and all well-meaning actors in promoting peace and security.
He added, “Our goals of unity and integration have always been thwarted not just by concerns of individual sovereignty of our nations but also by internal crisis and social conflicts in our nations and around the borders.
“Since 2017, there have been 12 military coups in Africa and half of them have occurred since 2020. Historically, in times like these, parochial prejudices are heightened and the fabric of cohesion becomes frayed as people retreat into ethnic, religious and other nativist camps. In all of these, the ideal of an integrated peaceful and prosperous sub region seems almost impossible.”
“It is my hope that you will conceptualise ways of bringing the full weight of the immense moral authority that you possess upon our nations and in the sub-region as a whole. It is evident that we cannot create fraternity and harmony in West Africa without our faith communities.”
Delivering his address, the President, Reunion of Episcopal Conferences of West Africa, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, asked political leaders to work harder to deliver good governance to the people.
He maintained that Catholic bishops in the region, without becoming politically partisan, would continue to ring out their prophetic voices on behalf of the voiceless multitude suffering.
In his remarks, the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, Most Revd. Lucius Ugorji, said the international community must work together to develop new strategies to tackle global problems.