ACN News: Thursday, 28th June 2012 – NIGERIA
With ‘Prayer for Nigeria in Distress’
‘Anger and hatred have… reached a dangerous level’
By John Newton
THE bishops of Nigeria have issued a dire warning that the country risks sliding into far worse conflict – unless urgent steps are taken to stop the violence.
In a statement dated Tuesday, 26th June, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria condemned “in the loudest possible manner” both the continuing attacks on Christian places of worship and “the so-called reprisal attacks”.
Writing after violence over the past week which claimed more than 100 lives, the bishops warn of the repercussions of a complete breakdown in inter-faith relations.
The letter, a copy of which was sent to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, states: “Whether by design or not, [attacks on churches] put grave stress on the already fragile mutual relationship between the Christian and Muslim communities in Nigeria.
“The sense of anger and hatred is growing by the day and has reached a dangerous level.
“We must all act now and decisively to arrest and defuse the tension.”
The letter, signed by Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, the conference’s president and its secretary, Archbishop-elect Alfred Martins of Lagos, describes growing dismay about ongoing attacks on people attending services.
The bishops state: “If there is no clear and concrete sign of improvement, the patience of many Christians will wear out, our sermons of restraint will fall on many deaf ears, and those who see violent reprisals as justified deterrence will fall beyond our control.
“There is palpable danger in the air.”
The bishops add that they will continue to preach peace, love, and forgiveness.
According to the BBC, analysts suggest terrorist group Boko Haram, responsible for many of the anti-Christian attacks, is trying to trigger clashes between Christians and Muslims by targeting churches.
In their letter, the bishops call on Christians and Muslims to work together to resolve the situation: “Our country is one; hence, we must together find the solution to our woes.”
They point out that, while the terrorists had carried out their acts of violence in the name of Islam, it was only Islamist extremists who were carrying out such attacks.
The bishops state: “Religion does not encourage such inhumanity [as] we are experiencing but rather [it] should bind us to the Creator and to one another in love and human solidarity.”
The bishops note that many Muslim leaders have condemned the violence, but they go on to add: “It is not enough to issue verbal condemnation of terrorist activities.
“There is need for concrete and pro-active action to call to order those responsible and to make them desist from causing any further havoc on our nation in the name of religion.”
The bishops said it was “sad” that the media had portrayed the crisis in terms of a conflict between Muslims and Christians, “instead of looking at it as the misdeeds of a few elements among us who [are] claiming to be acting for and in the name of religion…”
While the statement acknowledges that the state had “been doing a lot” to resolve the situation, they call on the government to increase its efforts.
“Security actions must be intensified and refined. Much more needs to be done in the area of intelligence gathering, analysing, interpreting and security equipment procurement. The terrorists must be identified, engaged, and disarmed.”
The bishops called on all the faithful to turn to prayer at this time.
Prayer for Nigeria in distress
All powerful and merciful father, you are the God of justice love and peace. You rule over all the Nations of Earth. Power and Might are in your hands and no one can withstand you. We present our country Nigeria before you. We praise and thank for you are the source of all we have and are. We are sorry for all the sins we have committed and for the good deeds we have failed to do.
In your loving forgiveness, keep us save from the punishment we deserve. Lord we are weighed down not only by uncertainties, but also by moral, economic and political problems. Listen to the cries of your people who confidently turn to you. God of infinite goodness, our strength in diversity, our health in weakness, our comfort in sorrow, be merciful to us your people. Spare this nation Nigeria from chaos anarchy and doom. Bless us with your kingdom of justice, love and peace.
We ask this through Christ our Lord, Amen.
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
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