Nigerian Priests Warn of Misuse of Religion for Political Ends

Power Concentrated in the Hands of an Elitist Few, They Say

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KADUNA, Nigeria, DEC. 16, 2001 ( The Nigeria Catholic Diocesan Priests´ Association has expressed its opposition to the existence of a political class that uses religion for its own ends.

The priests published a statement to this effect last week, at the end of their annual conference and general meeting to deliberate on the theme «Democracy in a Multireligious Setting: the Nigerian Context.»

Contrary to what should occur in a democratic regime, «in Nigeria, power is lamentably concentrated in the hands of an elitist few,» the priests´ statement contends.

«These few wield power persistently over time such that the same leadership continues uninterrupted among the same ruling class for their personal gains,» the statement charges. «In the pursuit of power, this elitist group uses ethnicity and religion to maneuver their way to the top only to turn back in pursuit of their personal interests.»

Nigeria´s 126 million inhabitants are split almost evenly between Christians and Muslims.

«The masses on the other hand live only to sustain the rulers in the pursuit of their selfish ends,» the priests lament.

«Nigeria is a secular state and it should not place any particular religion or culture over the other if it must survive as a nation true to its secular nature,» they add.

The statement does, however, see hope in the government, and particularly in the process of constitutional renewal. «We appreciate the efforts of the Nigerian government by giving Nigerians the opportunity to have a say in the Constitution so that it truly represent all Nigerians,» the statement says. This constitutional change might surmount the problems and tensions created by Nigerian states that enforce the Islamic law.

The priests «thank the Church and its religious leaders for not being silent over the malice plaguing this nation.»

Their statement continues: «We commend the government for initiating legislation against bribery and corruption in the country.» It further urges the government «to pursue vigorously things that will enhance peaceful stability, coexistence, economic emancipation and empowerment, sociocultural values, political stability, technological growth and good governance.»

The statement ends affirming: «The laity should exercise their constitutional rights and be actively involved in the politics of the nation for its better growth and development.»

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