By Christopher Wells
“Do not be afraid” is one of the keynotes of the final communique of the Nigerian Bishops’ Conference, issued at the conclusion of their Plenary Assembly.
Confessing their belief in the “abiding presence of God and his faithfulness,” the Bishops invite all Nigerians “to put their trust in God, while working hard to build a harmonious and peaceful nation.”
State of the nation
In their statement, the Bishops condemn violence and insecurity in Nigeria, and call on the government “to defend the life and property of every Nigerian citizen.” They encourage office holders to work for the good of the whole country, instead of being focused on special interests. In particular, they urge the government to respect freedom of religion, as guaranteed by the constitution. At the same time, they say, “we enjoin everyone to avoid acts of religious fanaticism in order to promote peaceful co-existence and harmony.”
The Bishops also focus on national elections, which will take place in 2019. “For our dreams to be achieved, we must embrace a new way of governing ourselves,” they say. “There is need for genuine repentance and sincere moral transformation.” The Bishops encourage all Nigerians to take part in the electoral process, and emphasize the importance of ensuring that all can exercise their rights without being subject to “intimidation and violence.”
Calling for release of captives
In their communique, Nigeria’s Bishops “demand that the Federal Government secure the unconditional release of Leah Sharibu,” being held captive for refusing to reject her Christian faith; as well as the release of the remaining Chibok girls, and all who are being held captive against their will.
Sorrow and regret for clerical abuse
The Bishops also take note of the ongoing clerical sexual abuse scandal, expressing their union with recent Popes in expressing their sorrow and regret for those affected by clerical abuse. They reaffirm their commitment “to priestly celibacy and chastity, and call on all clergy and religious “to be mindful of their obligation to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Power of prayer
In conclusion, the Bishops of Nigeria recall the importance of prayer, recalling that “Our Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated the power of prayer during his earthly life.” They call on the faithful of Nigeria to follow Jesus’ example of praying at all times; and especially recommend the daily recitation of the Holy Rosary, as well as other forms of devotion. “We urge all Nigerians to continue to pray for our nation,” the Bishops say. They continue, “It is our firm belief that our collective prayers will never go unanswered. We therefore say to all Nigerians: Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged.”