Nigeria: National Christian Elders Forum Plead With Catholic Bishops’ Conference to Return to CAN

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PIC 6. CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF ABUJA DIOCESE, JOHN CARDINAL ONAIYEKAN; PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC BISHOPS' CONFERENCE OF NIGERIA (CBCN), AND BISHOP OF JOS DIOCESE, MOST REV. IGNATIUS KAIGAMA, AND APOSTOLIC NONCIO TO NIGERIA, MOST REV. AUGUSTINE KASUJIA AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE FIRST PLENARY SECTION OF THE CBCN IN ABUJA ON SUNDAY (17/02/13).
The National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF), a group in the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), has begged the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) to rescind its decision to withdraw participation from the affairs of CAN. The plea was made in a letter signed by Mr. Solomon Asemota, NCEF Chairman, and addressed to Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, CBCN President.
 
The letter was a response to one written by the CBCN on 8 June, announcing its decision to suspend active participation in CAN activities until the resolution of certain issues.
 
‎In the letter, Asemota referred to an earlier letter written by Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, CAN President, urging the CBCN to reconsider its decision.
 
“Your Grace, you and other Bishops of the CBCN have God’s grace through vocation to distinguish between the voice of God and that of Satan.
 
“I therefore crave your indulgence to refer to the letter‎ of the President of CAN and the paper presented by Bishop Bagobiri of Nigeria to plead that the Voice of God should encourage your reconsideration of the action,” the letter read in part. ‎Asemota warned that Christian leaders need to be united to confront the threat posed by perceived attempts to islamize the country via Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen. If there is no unity, he further warned, church leaders will create the impression that they are in league with those who want to Islamize Nigeria.
 
“As this is The Year of Mercy, there is the need for CBCN to reconsider withdrawing the letter to CAN in the spirit of mercy and reconciliation.
 
“All Church leaders in Nigeria must be careful not to create the unfortunate impression that some Church Leaders in Nigeria are “extensions” of Fulani/ Hausa hegemony intent of Islamizing Nigeria.
 
“It is my humble submission therefore that the Church,‎ more than any period in history in Nigeria, needs to be unified to combat the systematic and deliberate efforts to Islamize Nigeria by force,” the NCEF Chairman added.
 
He called the attention of the CBCN to a Global Congress co-sponsored by the Holy See and Citizen GO at the UN Headquarters in April. The Congress, he explained, was organized to find ways of defending religious freedom and halting atrocities on Christians and other faiths by ISIS, its affiliates, and other terrorist groups.
 
To support his position, Asemota also referred to a paper presented at the Congress. Titled “The Impact of Persistent Violence On The Church in Nigeria”, the paper, said Asemota, identified naked threats to the Nigerian church.
 
“Faced with the challenge of Boko Haram and nomadicFulani h‎erdsmen marauders, both of them being Islamist terrorist organizations, they kill, maim, destroy properties through bombings, guerrilla like attacks andpractice all forms of discrimination and marginalization against non-Muslims.
 
“The difference between these two groups ofkillers, who are equally brutal, is that while Boko Haram today kills both Muslims and Christians, the Fulani herdsmen target only the indigenous communities ofthe “Middle belt region”, who are mainly and predominately Christian communities,” he quoted the paper as saying.