Headline: WAGING PEACE AGAINST THE WARPosted on: 2016-05-06
The security situation in Nigeria has been rendered more precarious in past few years by insurgency, intertribal conflicts, armed robbery, kidnappings and more. In recent months Nigeria has seen escalating murderous activities of alleged Fulani herdsmen who simply herd their cattle to ravage farms and farmlands and then kill people who try to resist them in the process. While such clashes in the distant past seldom resulted in deaths the situation is different today with dozens getting killed by the so - called herdsmen wielding very sophisticated arms and ammunitions. Some parts of Nigeria are more affected than others.
Many Nigerian have repeatedly condemned this ugly situation. Others have adopted a more proactive and more effective approach to resolving the problem. The Catholic Church, far from just praying for peace, has always been actively involved in peace-building and conflict-resolution through its various agents and organs especially the Justice, Development and Peace Movement. Many Catholic Bishops, alarmed by the situation, especially in their dioceses, have taken the issue even beyond the shores of the country. Leaders among them are John Cardinal Onayekan, the Archbishop of Abuja, Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme of Maiduguri diocese, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto Diocese, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos archdiocese and President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria and Bishop Joseph Bagobiri of Kafanchan diocese.
A few weeks ago Bishop Bagobiri took this campaign for justice, peace and national security to the headquarters of the United Nations in New York, USA. There he delivered an intervention at a global Congress, co-sponsored by the Holy See and "Citizen Go", a Madrid based NGO. The congress was aimed at defending religious freedom and stopping atrocities on Christians and other believers, by ISIS & its affiliates, and other terror groups like them. Excerpts of Bishop Bagobiri's presentation at the congress requesting the intervention of the international community and the Nigerian government deserve the attention of every Nigerian, government and the governed alike: Below are some excerpts:
The International community should employ effective advocacy measures to pressurize the Nigeria Government to do more to guarantee and ensure total freedom for Christians and minorities in Northern Nigeria. These should address: (1) the denial of freedom and rights of Christians and minorities under Sharia in 12 Northern States; (2) forceful invasions, attacks and take-over of the ancestral lands of the indigenous Christians and minorities in the middle belt region of Nigeria; (3) pervasive cases of persecution, violence, discrimination and marginalization; (4) the enshrinement of democracy and the rule of law; and (5) the dual conflicting ideologies of democracy and theocracy in the Nigerian Constitution.
In a pluralistic society like Nigeria, what is required is to solve the problem of religious extremism is not primarily the promotion of inter-faith dialogue, but Government’s firm resolve to deal decisively with cases of abuse of the fundamental human rights of its citizens according to the provisions of the rule of law.
The international community must act now to address the humanitarian crisis of Christians living in the North-East and some Middle Belt areas of Nigeria, by establishing a global fund to help in the meaningful rehabilitation of victims of these injustices.
The properties and lands of fleeing Christians being bought, confiscated or simply occupied by the marauding and invading perpetrators of violence against Christian believers must be recovered. The international community must take up this issue with the Government of Nigeria to ensure that both land and property of Christians and other vulnerable minorities are returned to them unfailingly.
The International Community should monitor and advocate that the security of every Nigerian be guaranteed by the Federal, State, Local governments and the Nigerian communities. This should be done in accordance with the following statutes: The Nigerian Constitution, Section 14 (2) (b) which states that
“The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of the government” and the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous people – Article 1, states “Indigenous people have the right to the full enjoyment, as a collective or as individuals, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms as recognized in the charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International human rights law.
In view of the above statutes, the international community should impress it upon the Federal Government of Nigeria to rise up to her responsibility to ensure the comprehensive enforcement of these statutes.
Given the rather very densely plural nature and composition of the Nigerian society, the International Community should impress it upon the Government of the Nation to strive as much as possible to be religiously neutral. In view of this, Section 10 of the Nigerian Constitution which states clearly that, “The Government of the Federation or of a state shall not adopt any religion as state religion”. Section 38(1) also states that, “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and the public or in private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance…. These articles should be strengthened as a way of promoting true democratic culture in a country like Nigeria with intense diversities on ethnic and religious dimensions, in order to
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