A COMMUNIQUE ISSUED BY THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS OF IBADAN ECCLESIASTICAL PROVINCE AFTER A MEETING HELD AT THE M&M PASTORAL CENTRE, ILORIN FROM JULY 13-14, 2020.
We, the Catholic Bishops of Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province, comprising Ibadan Archdiocese, Ilorin, Ondo, Ekiti, Oyo and Osogbo Dioceses, have met at the M&M centre, Ilorin, Kwara State from July 13-14, 2020. After deliberating on matters of importance to our people and Church in Ibadan Province and Nigeria, we now prayerfully issue the following Communique:
1. The enduring Coronavirus Pandemic
As countries and people all over the world try as best as possible to cope with the enduring Coronavirus pandemic, we express our solidarity with our governments and people in our country, Nigeria, for the hard times the virus as brought about. Nothing, it seems, has remained the same and the changes in political, social, economic and religious life have brought unprecedented hardship to many. We commend and thank all those who have acted to bring succour and comfort to our people, be this in the form of services, palliatives, counselling and even prayers. These include the effort of governments, institutions, professionals, especially doctors and other medical personnel and other kind-hearted individuals. We urge Nigerians to continue to adhere strictly to all guidelines and instructions aimed at preventing the spread of the virus. The Coronavirus is real but available evidence shows that if we all cooperate to fight it by our adherence to the wearing of face masks, maintaining social/physical distance and constant sanitising and washing of hands, we can drastically reduce its effects and conquer it. Good health is wealth and protecting human life is a sacred duty.
We call on all therefore to live a life of thanksgiving to God for his mercy and for strength to overcome this trying period in our country Church and families.
2. Opening up the Social Space
When Covid-19 struck, all were taken by surprise. The ensuing situation required that all be realistic and take the preservation of life as a paramount objective. By now we have all adjusted to methods of prevention and living with the pandemic and the social space is being gradually opened. We call on the concerned authorities to do everything possible to ensure that our schools are opened up in a manner that is safe for our children, pupils and staff. In this regard government support and subsidies ought to be extended to all institutions without discrimination as all our children are citizens of their country. However, we recommend that the authorities collaborate more with religious leaders and involve them in decision making, especially as concerns the opening up of religious places of worship where it has not been done. With facts and figures backing up the arguments and especially as we are in a democracy, decisions that involve large numbers of the people in such a key sector as religion must be seen to be consultative.
3. Persistent Insecurity and Corruption
Nigeria is still plagued by a series of security challenges: corruption, terrorism kidnapping, banditry, terrorism, ethnic clashes, extra-judicial killings and more recently, rape. Even as government and the security agencies at different levels claim to grapple with these challenges, the problems all seem to be hydra-headed monsters, reappearing as often as they seem subdued. There is anxiety in the land. Nigeria cannot continue to operate a system that seems to be faulty and leaky and clearly needs to restructure its security apparatus and methods. There is definitely, anger, disillusionment and despondency in the land. A major cause of these is the seeming unconquerable report of corruption in practically every facet of life especially at the highest levels of governance. We appeal to the government, institutions and individuals who mean well for Nigeria to rally and work together to reduce the despair and tension that lead many of our people into criminality. Nigeria ought to return to the ideal of federal balance in a multi-ethnic country and deal even-handedly with all. There are of course, other factors that need attention in order to better the security situation in the country like job creation, prompt prosecution of those who run afoul of the law, and the application of the rule of law to all alike etc. Within this context we call on all who believe in God, especially Christians, to strive to do the right thing at all times and to be the light of the world by doing everything possible to fight corruption within their own spheres of influence, curbing the unnecessary loss of lives which has become a daily occurrence in Nigeria.
4. The Dignity of Women and the Crime of Rape
The Catholic Church believes and teaches that women and men are of equal dignity. This teaching stems from the teaching of Scripture that God created them in his own image and likeness. “Male and female, he created them” (Gen 1:27). Our Africa culture accords a lot of respect to women and motherhood. This why the upsurge of rape in our country is tragic. Rape is a reprehensible and horrific sign of moral decadence and decency deficiency in our society. Since all are born of women, rape does not only hurt women, it is also the greatest form of self-degradation by the very perpetrators. It is a crime deserving of the strictest corrective punishment and is a sin against God, the Creator of all. With good parenting the number of twisted individuals who find pleasure in raping, hurting and degrading women and girls will be reduced among us. We must all do more in teaching youths about honouring and respecting other persons, especially women. We must caution our youths against the fatal danger of drug abuse pornography which provokes uncontrollable sexual urges. Fathers must lay good example for their children by how they themselves treat their mothers and wives because children may forget what we say but they never forget what they see us do.
5. The Scope of Collaborative Ministry in the Church
Collaborative Ministry in the Church seeks to enhance the collaboration between Consecrated Persons and the Diocesan Clergy wherever they work. It shows the face of the Church as family of God on mission. Such synergy and harmony surely bring a lot of benefit to the Church and her mission. We urge that the concept and substance of collaborative ministry be maximally exploited to enhance the work of mission and evangelization by different segments of the Church, namely, Clergy, Religious, Women Organisations, Men Organizations, Youth and Children. The fruit of such working together is the witness we give of Christ as head of the Church united in love.
In conclusion, let us all stand firmly on the promise of God not to leave his people unaided. He speaks to us through the prophecy of Isaiah: “Pay attention, keep calm, have no fear, do not let your heart sink because of these two smouldering stumps of firebrands”. (Is. 7:4). As human beings, we are a most adaptable species. More importantly we are most beloved by the Creator. We therefore must hold firm to God’s love in prayer and faith believing that the troubles of the moment will only be temporary. May God be merciful to us, heal our land and our nation. Amen
Most Rev. Gabriel Abegunrin
Most Rev. John Oyejola Secretary.