ABUJA, Nigeria, JULY 31, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The Nigerian bishops’ conference is calling for a new beginning so as to save the country from “collapse” in the wake of recent violence.
This was affirmed in a statement distributed Thursday by the Nigerian Catholic Secretariat, signed by Father Louis Odudu, the deputy secretary general.
The statement responded to a wave of violence that claimed hundreds of lives and displaced thousands in the north of the country.
The confrontation began Sunday when a fundamentalist Islamic group called “Boko Haram” staged a raid on a police station in an effort to establish a Taliban-style regime based on a strict observance of Shariah law.
The leader of the sect, Mohammed Yusuf, was killed Thursday, ending the violence for now but leaving authorities uncertain about possible retaliation attacks.
The bishops’ conference called for a “new beginning devoid of hatred and every form of religious fundamentalism.”
This is imperative “for the economic and social recovery of our country,” it added.
The statement called on religious groups to “support one another and contribute to the growth and development of our country anchored on mutual respect and interest for the future.”
It acknowledged that “religious traditions also impel us to embrace modern values and appropriate those that contribute to better service to the Almighty and improved quality of life for human beings.”
In this light, the Catholic bishops called on the Boko Haram leaders to “adopt a creative approach to their religious practice in order to give honor and glory to Almighty God.”
The conference emphasized that “the underlying pillars of any religion include the principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”
“These compel adherents of religious traditions to be sufficiently open and adopt disposition of respect of
cultures while at the same time enriching their own very traditions with contemporary values and cultural developments,” it added.
The statement asserted that dialogue is a “very critical component” of religious practice.
It continued: “Modern education and modern civilizations do not preclude ardent religious devotion.
“In fact, it should be underlined that Islam, as a
religious practice, from places like Al-Azhar, carried the light of learning through so many centuries and paved the way for Europe’s renaissance and enlightenment.”
The statement affirmed the contributions of Muslim communities throughout history, acknowledging that “Islam has been active in demonstrating the real possibility of integral human development.”
The conference denounced “any religious movement that would subvert the progress that has been made in education and technology in Nigeria and at the same time thwart law and order.”
It also appealed to the government to “take urgent steps to control the current upsurge in religious militancy in the country.”
“Government must take urgent actions to address the broken-down structural conditions in Nigeria which the Boko Haram sect has taken an advantage of to take the law into their hands with impunity,” it added.
The statement asserted that at the root of this violence is the “growing poverty in the land.”
It urged the government to “take urgent steps to address the problem of poverty and undertake concrete action plans toward wealth creation in Nigeria.”
The bishops called on all of their countrymen to continue building a “culture of peace and tolerance” and to pray for “the social and economic recovery of our dear country.”