‘Our Hope Doesn’t Disappoint (ROM 5:5)’, Nigeria Catholic Bishops

Pastoral Statement of the Catholic Bishops of Kaduna Ecclesiastical Province to the Priests, Religious and the Lay Faithful and All People of Goodwill.

Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be tired, they shall walk and not grow faint (Is. 41:31)

1: The last few years have been the most trying times in the history of our nation. A culture of self-doubt and uncertainty have bred fear, anxiety and deep suspicion among our people. Except for the civil war, our nation has never witnessed the kind of wide spread macabre, evil, wanton destruction and murderous blood-letting. Life has never been so cheap, nor has Nigeria ever been at the stage we are in now. Deaths in the hands of kidnappers, killer herdsmen, bandit, terrorist groups have made Nigeria the most terrorized country in the world. We are now one of the most dangerous places to be born into, the least peaceful countries in the world. Everywhere you turn, funerals have become our daily menu. The abductions of school children has presented us with the prospects of a traumatized generation of young students. Even at the best of times, our region has been behind in almost every index of human survival.

2: Amidst all these tales of sorrow and climate of despondency, we are all tempted to cry with the Psalmist, from where shall come our help? We know that the same Psalmist assures us that; our help shall come from the Lord who made heaven and earth ( Ps. 121: 1). We are confident because we know that amidst all this, the earth is the Lords and all there in (P. 24: 1). At times like these, many people lose faith because they often ask, how can a good God allow evil to triumph? Or, often, they say, we have been crying and praying for so long. If there had been a god, he would have answered us. The weak in faith are often led astray and are tempted to seek new gods or lose faith. However dear brothers and sisters, we are sending you this message to strengthen your faith, to assure you that our redeemer liveth (Job 19:25). When the people of Israel faced the Egyptians in fear, Moses said to them: Stand by, you will see the salvation of the Lord which he will accomplish for you today, for the Egyptians that you see today, you will not see them again forever. The lord will fight for you while you (should) just keep silent (Gen. 14:13-14). These evil men of darkness will not have the last say.

3: We are writing this Message to appeal to you to be calm, to remain strong because our God is faithful. Recall the saying, Tough times do not last, but tough people do. Also, recall the promises of God in the Bible. Wars and conflicts have always been part of our lives beginning from the Garden of Eden. Recovering and reconstructing new societies has always been a challenge. For us as Christians, men and women of faith, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest assurance and anchor that we have. The Lord Himself said that; Unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces many seeds (Jn. 12:24). In history, the seeds of our Christian faith have been watered by the blood of our martyrs. This is why one of the Church’s father’s Tertullian said that the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christianity. They have therefore not died in vain.

4: The endless killings in our land have erected one of the most tragic signposts of our lives as a people. The blood of hundreds and thousands of innocent people that have been killed cries out to high heavens. The Christian community along with millions of our brethren have suffered tremendously since we entered this ugly face in the life of our nation. Our Church leaders have been kidnapped, tortured and in some cases, gruesomely murdered for no reason other than that they bear the cross of Christ. We want to assure you, dear brethren that although these times test our collective will, we shall not surrender to falsehood. Jesus already assured us that the gates of the underworld shall not prevail against his Kingdom (Mt. 16:17.) Our hopes rest firmly on these promises.

5: In all of this, we Christians have a pool of faith to draw from. Our Lord reminded us that: When these things begin to happen, stand erect, hold your heads high because your liberation is close at hand (Lk. 21:28). The Christian faith is based on faith that produces hope. This hope is what sustains and urges us on (2 Cor. 5:14). Courage in the face of rage and provocation have always been the armour of Christians. We are happy that in keeping with our Christian heritage, Christians have continued to remain committed to the dictates of their faith regarding our common humanity and brotherhood. Against the run of play and our human expectations, Jesus laid out a teaching that was totally against the grain of human expectations. He warned Christians against vengeance because, first, vengeance belonged to God (Rom. 12:19). Second, He enjoined us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (MT. 5: 43).

6: Our God rewards faithfulness and loyalty. Often, Christian loyalty and trust in God are based on the knowledge that; the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom (1 Cor. 1: 25). We are right to ask, where is God in our moments of despair? Where is our God in these tragic times when His children are being mindlessly slaughtered? What is the future of the orphans and widows?  We may imagine that we have cried and God has not heard us. But, our faith must be based on the God who rewarded Abraham with a perfect gift even as his only son, Isaac laid on the altar of slaughter( Gen. 22: 7). The patience of the widow of Zarephath was rewarded when her jar will not run dry(1 Kg. 7:14). The holy women who followed Jesus were rewarded when they became the first to see Him after His resurrection (Jn. 20:18). The faith of the Apostles was rewarded when, carrying no money, no sandals but only absolute trust in God, they came back rejoicing at how much they had accomplished (Lk. 9: 10). The faith of the Apostles was rewarded when, in obedience, they cast their net at the Lord’s command and made a huge catch(Jn. 21: 6). Brethren, we may feel tired, exhausted, even traumatised, but, in faith, our Lord will show the way.

7: The challenge before us as Christians is to understand the purifying effect of suffering in our lives. We do not live alone as believers in Jesus Christ. We are the salt of the earth and Jesus has told us that no matter what happens, we must ensure we do not lose our taste. We are the light of the world, no matter what happens, our light must continue to shine. It is the only guarantee that we have to defeat the dark forces around us (Mt. 5:13). As your shepherds, we therefore wish to end by making the following appeals to you all.

8: To all Catholic faithful: We appeal to all Catholics to stand firmly committed to a life of obedience to the will of God by prayer and adoration as they lift up their hands to God in thanksgiving at all times. We are convinced that when these dark clouds clear, we will emerge stronger and victorious. We appeal to you to note what the holy rosary has done in times of crisis, from the battle of Lepanto to the collapse of the Soviet Union. We your shepherds are laying out a programme of prayer with dates and time tables clearly defined. We encourage you as individuals, families, pastoral associations and parishes to be faithful to this call to prayer for our nation. Like the walls of Jericho, we believe that in the end, these walls of evil will collapse based on our faith, not physical weapons.

9: To all Christian faithful: We appeal to all who call on the name of Jesus to unite with us in prayer so that amidst these tragedies, our faith will not be shaken and the cross of Jesus will bring us victory and glory to our land. We have borne a lot, but we are not bowed. The cross of Jesus is before us. The light of Christ shines ahead of us to drive away the darkness before us. We must bear no bitterness against anyone. Let us renew our commitment to being the light of the world.

10: To all our fellow Nigerians: Today, our country, entrusted to us by God has been consumed by forces of darkness and death. This madness has cast a dark spell on the nobility of faith. Let all believers stand together in brotherhood and sisterhood to redeem our faiths. More and more citizens are losing faith in God because of the way Religion has been abused in our country. Religious leaders must stand together in their total condemnation of this evil.

11: It is important for us all to understand that the northern states have been the most affected in the tragedies, loss of human lives and horror that has engulfed our nation. We all know that sadly, the perpetrators of these evils are constantly appealing to the religion of Islam to validate their criminality. We therefore call on our Governors to become more circumspect in the policies that are being enunciated regarding Religion. Adequate consultations should be undertaken with all religious leaders and the wider society because our plural societies demand nothing less if laws are to be for the good of all. The actions of some of our Governors in the past and even present have opened up windows that are being exploited by these men of evil in the name of Religion. We are ready to support our Governors to see an end to these tragedies. However, our laws must be anchored on the principles of Democracy and national cohesion.

12: Brethren, we have declared a week of prayer and fasting for peace in our land from August 15th to 22nd, 2021. The week of prayer will be formally declared open by the Bishop and will end with a Rosary procession and Benediction in our Churches. The programme of activities for the Prayers is attached to this Message. Finally, brethren, we do not speak to you only as teachers but also as part of you. We are putting these thoughts before you with the hope that they may bring comfort to your hearts in the situation in our country today. May the Lord, the Good Shepherd continue to guide and lead us.

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