Nigerian House of bishops warns of the threats driven by militant Islam.
The threats from militant Islam faced by Nigerians at home and abroad were among the lead topics of discussion at the Church of Nigeria’s House of Bishop’s meeting last week at the Ibru Centre in Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.
From 8-12 January 2018, 145 serving and 6 retired bishops met to discuss the topic: The Episcopate and the Future of the Church of Nigeria. In their closing communique the bishops thanked the Nigerian government for its efforts to free enslaved Nigerians held in Libya and for its fight against Boko-Haram at home.
However, it faulted the government for its failure to respond to the attacks against farmers in Nigeria by Muslim Fulani herdsmen. They expressed their support to the “families of victims of Fulani herdsmen”, noting that as “a result of the continuous inaction of the Government, people are beginning to suspect that there is complicity of the Federal Government in these despicable acts.”
Fulani attacks in villages in Benue State left 73 people dead during the first week of January, while 40,000 people have been displaced the state emergency agency reported. The head of Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, on 11 Jan 2017 told Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily program: “We are really reaching a boiling point of total anarchy.”
“If you are to look at how things are developing, there’s a lot of anger from different affected communities and including those who actually are bearing the brunt of losing family members at this time of the year,” she said.
While Nigeria’s Middle Belt has borne the brunt of the attacks, the violence has been seen across the country. In April 2016 the Archbishop of Enugu Province in Southeastern Nigeria lamented the government’s failure to protect its citizens after at least 50 people were murdered in Nimbo in Enugu state. “I feel bitter, I feel aggrieved. I feel sad” the Federal Government “cannot protect us” the Most Rev. Emmanuel Chukwuma told the Daily Post. “We call on the Federal Government to declare state of emergency in Igboland over the Fulani herdsmen threat to security in the zone or else we will declare war against the Fulani Herdsmen” he said.
A bill before the Nigerian Senate has proposed confiscating farm land to create access between grazing areas to allow the Fulani to move their cattle across the country. However, the land would be taken from predominantly Christian farmers to support the livelihood of Muslim herdsmen. The Christian Association of Nigeria has called the grazing corridors plan a backdoor to spreading Islam throughout the Nigeria at state expense. It has called upon the government to adopt programs to support privately owned cattle ranches, with access to veterinary services, water, schools and other social amenities, in place of communal Fulani ownership of cattle.
While the creeping desertification of Northern Nigeria — as the Sahara continues moving south — has been of concern for many years, the spike in violence began in 2014 and by 2016 more Nigerians were killed by Fulani herdsmen than by Boko Haram. The religious elements of the farmer/herder Christian/Muslim dispute have also grown in recent years due to the rise of radical Islam in the Sahel and West Africa.
To forestall civil war, the bishops stated that they “strongly believe that the permanent solution to the killings by herdsmen lies in the establishment of ranches in line with world best practices and not grazing colonies. Besides, the young herdsmen deserve a better opportunity for education and advancement in life. The Bishops believe that it is unkind to design a life of perpetual wandering for these class of youth.”
The communique addressed questions of good government, social welfare and state structural reform, while also noting the divisions within the Anglican world. “We commend and applaud the work” of GAFCON, they pledged to continue their support for its work of reformation and renewal.
“The Church of Nigeria which is Bible based, will continue to maintain fellowship with Churches, whose faith and practice are agreeable to and based on scriptural foundations, not necessarily on the basis of history. We reaffirm our theological position that same-sex marriage, homosexuality, lesbianism, bi-sexuality and transgender are unbiblical, unethical, un-natural, anti-reproductive, and against the progress of human society,” they said.
Text of the Communique
FROM HOUSE OF BISHOPS
CHURCH OF NIGERIA (ANGLICAN COMMUNION)
The House of Bishops of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) met under the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit and the leadership of the Most Rev. Nicholas D. Okoh, Archbishop Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria for their Annual Retreat at Ibru Ecumenical Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State from January 8 -12, 2018. 145 serving Bishops and 6 retired Bishops were present. We were blessed with the opportunity to fellowship together in prayer, worship, and learning, addressing our minds to the responsibilities and the roles of Bishops in advancing the Kingdom of God, prophetic ministry to the nation, maintaining Church discipline and ensuring resolution of conflicts with the theme: “The Episcopate and the Future of the Church of Nigeria”.
Rising from the retreat, the House of Bishops issued the following communique:
The Bishops commend the Federal Government on the prompt response and the evacuation of Nigeria immigrants from Libya who are being enslaved.
Similarly the Bishops salute the sustained efforts of the Federal Government and the Armed Forces in curbing the activities of Boko-haram and other insurgent groups across the country.
The retreat x-rays the current situation of the Church and observes that Biblical standard has been compromised and that the Christian heritage is fast being eroded. The Bishops, therefore, called on Church leaders to provide leadership based on the examples of the Apostles and to be alive to their responsibilities of daily walk with God, soul-winning, discipleship, mentoring and obediently serving God without minding the cost, highlighting Christian virtues such as humility, self-denial, sacrifice, service and servanthood and righteous suffering.
It was also observed that homes, institutions, Churches and the society are crisis ridden. The Bishops call on secular and religious leaders at all levels to nip conflict in the bud before it escalates to crisis. Furthermore, government is hereby called upon to be proactive at the incipient stage of conflict and thus prevent it from developing into a crisis. This is safer than applying force as the life of every Nigerian matters.
The House of Bishops sympathises with the families of victims of Fulani herdsmen attack all over the country, notably Kaduna, Plateau, Taraba, Adamawa, Kwara and Benue States. The Bishops observed that as a result of the continuous inaction of the Government, people are beginning to suspect that there is complicity of the Federal Government in these despicable acts. We therefore call on the Federal Government, as a matter of urgency to address these ugly trends and ensure that the culprits are brought to justice. However, the Bishops strongly believe that the permanent solution to the killings by herdsmen lies in the establishment of ranches in line with world best practices and not grazing colonies. Besides, the young herdsmen deserve a better opportunity for education and advancement in life. The Bishops believe that it is unkind to design a life of perpetual wandering for these class of youth.
In addition, the Federal Government should use Federal establishments and Institutions, especially the Armed Forces and Nigerian Police for national interest and wellbeing of all Nigerians and not for personal, sectional or political interests.
As the tempo of political activities begins to rise in view of 2019 General Elections, the Bishops call on all politicians to exercise restraint in their pronouncements and actions; call on all Nigerians to register and obtain their permanent voter’s cards in order to exercise their franchise; and also call upon INEC to avoid actions that might frustrate the enthusiastic voters.
The political office holders are also reminded of their responsibility to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in making appointments, to maintain federal character, equity, fairness, Justice, to enhance the unity of the Nation.
The House of Bishops calls on the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency initiate a constructive dialogue on the restructuring of Nigeria.
The current scarcity and high cost of Petroleum products have brought untold hardship on Nigerians. We therefore call on NNPC and all those concerned to resolve their issues in the overall interest of all Nigerians. Furthermore, the clamour for increase in the pump price of these products by the marketers must be jettisoned, as this will aggravate the enormous sufferings of the hapless Nigerian citizens.
As Bishops of the Church of Nigeria, we commend and applaud the work of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) under the leadership of Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria, The Most Rev. Nicholas D. Okoh and especially for the plans to hold the third Global Anglican Future Conference in Jerusalem, Israel in June this year, 2018. We further commit ourselves to the continuation of the Global Anglican Future Conference. We uphold the Jerusalem declaration which affirms “the Holy Scripture of the Old Testament and New Testament to be the Word of God written and to contain all things necessary for salvation” and call upon Christians everywhere to declare and defend the faith once for all entrusted to the Saints.
The Church of Nigeria which is Bible based, will continue to maintain fellowship with Churches, whose faith and practice are agreeable to and based on scriptural foundations, not necessarily on the basis of history. We reaffirm our theological position that same-sex marriage, homosexuality, lesbianism, bi-sexuality and trans-gender are unbiblical, unethical, un-natural, anti-reproductive, and against the progress of human society.
Finally, the House of Bishops on behalf of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) commiserate with the family of the former Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Dr. Alex Ekwueme in particular and entire Nation in general on his demise. It is our prayer that God may grant them the fortitude to bear the great loss.
The Most Rev’d Nicholas D. Okoh, MA, Fss, Mss, LLD, DD
Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria