By Josef Ishu
Worried over incessant attacks, kidnappings and killings of innocent and armless Nigerians by Boko Haram terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and other vices being faced by the Nigerian State, the representatives of the Catholic Church and Methodist Church in Nigeria on Tuesday, September 14, 2021 held a meeting at the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Abuja to discuss the possible way out of this quagmire.
This will be the second time both churches are holding such discourse having met in September 2017 for their inaugural meeting under the auspices of Methodist Roman Catholic Dialogue Commission.
L-R: Catholic Bishop of Pankshin, Most Rev. Michael Gokum, Methodist Archbishop of Abuja, Most Revd Dr. Joseph Oche Job, Secretary of Conference MCN, Rt. Revd Michael O. Akinwale, Chairman of the Occasion, Sir Sylvester Chukwu, KSJI, Director, Mission & Dialogue, Catholic Secretariat, Very Rev. Fr. Joseph Nomhwange, SMA and National Director of Social Communications, Catholic Secretariat, Very Rev. Fr. Michael Nsikak Umoh during the opening ceremony of the Second Methodist Roman Catholic Dialogue Commission in Nigeria
In his goodwill message at the opening ceremony, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) and Archbishop of Benin-City, Most Rev. Augustine Obiora Akubeze noted that apart from the Corona Virus which has made life very difficult for people, Nigerians are living with other cruel realities such as banditry, kidnappings, inter-communal and inter-tribal conflicts, corruption, nepotism, bad governance at various levels, strikes by various groups as well as the worsening cost of living.
Archbishop Akubeze, represented by the Catholic Bishop of Pankshin and Bishop Chairman on Ecumenism, Most Rev. Michael Gokum said, “In the face of all these woes, we as Christians must approach these issues as citizens, but also as people of faith.” Archbishop Akubeze advised.
Similarly, the Prelate of Methodist Church Nigeria, His Eminence, Dr. Samuel Kanu Uche, noted in a goodwill message, that there have been many developments in Nigeria post 2020 Covid 19 lockdown. “There have been issues of challenges with our political structure, the frontal assaults on Boko Haram, farmer/herder clashes, sporadic burning and sacking of villages.”
The Prelate, represented by the Methodist Archbishop of Abuja, His Grace, the Most Revd. Dr. Joseph Oche Job, therefore counselled that the meeting between the two churches is very important and one that should be encouraged among all the strata of Nigerian society. “We must salute the vision of the founders who thought it wise to establish this Dialogue with the noble cause of joint deliberations and actions for greater impact and results. We have the conviction that this serene and hallowed meeting will engender fruitful deliberations and outcomes.” Says Dr. S.K. Uche.
A Cross-Section of Participants at the opening ceremony of Second Methodist Roman Catholic Dialogue Commission in Nigeria
In his address of welcome, the Secretary General of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Very Rev. Fr. Zacharia Nyantiso Samjumi described the coming together of the Catholics and Methodists as a sacrament that binds the two churches together. “We are coming together to seek common ground and by so doing, we will be able to triumph.”
Fr. Samjumi was represented by the Director, Church and Society, Catholic Secretariat, Very Rev. Fr. Uche Obodoechina, who said that the challenges facing Nigeria today is a call for true prophets. “We all need peace because the value of peace is inestimable. We have come together to reflect on the reality of our environment. The Nigerian environment is looking for real prophets who are courageous and who can sacrifice even at the point of death to make our country a better place. This is because our government, both federal, state and local governments, have failed us. We are reaping the fruits of a failed state. We all must stand up and speak against these ills.”
The National Director of Social Communications, Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Very Rev. Fr. Michael Nsikak Umoh and the Secretary of Conference, Methodist Church Nigeria, Bishop Michael Olusegun Akinwale, presented papers on the theme of the Dialogue, “Prophetic Reflections on the State of the Nation-Nigeria”.
In his presentation, Fr Umoh called for unity of Christians, stressing that it is not a choice for Christians to unite but a command. “Unity of Christians is not a choice; it is a command. Let us unit otherwise we will be consumed.”
On his part, Bishop Akinwale challenged all Christians, especially church leaders to arise to the much needed office of prophet. “Nigeria is looking forward to men and women who shall consciously and intentionally stand in the gap for our dear nation especially against the divisive and fissiparous tendencies trying to rip Nigeria apart.”