Catholics leave Nigeria’s ecumenical association over politics

Interchurch relations in Nigeria have been dealt a blow by the Catholic Church’s decision to indefinitely suspend its involvement in the nation’s 40-year-old ecumenical association.

Catholic and Protestant churches formed the Christian Association of Nigeria to promote Christian unity and to speak with one voice on national issues.

Catholic leaders have now decided to pull out because they believe the current president, Ayo Oritsejafor, a Pentecostal pastor, has made the association too cosy with the government and too confrontational with Muslims in response to continuing attacks on Christians.

In a letter listing their grievances, the Catholic bishops alleged that the association was “being dragged into partisan politics, thereby compromising its ability to play its true role as conscience of the nation and voice of the voiceless”.

They also alleged that the association’s interfaith mission was “not given a priority attention to promote peace and unity in the nation”, but instead the organisation was being used as “an army put in place to defend Christians against Muslims”.

Catholic bishops have also accused Oritsejafor of personal opulence and inappropriate public comments on national issues.

Things deteriorated last November, when Oritsejafor received a multi-million-dollar private jet from unnamed members of his church. Some defended the jet as essential to the travel required by his ministry; others criticised it as a bad pastoral example when half of Nigerians still live on less than US$1 per day.

The Catholic bishops frowned at the gift, even insinuating that President Goodluck Jonathan, who belongs to Oritsejafor’s tribe, facilitated the gift and is backing Oritsejafor in his bid for re-election this July.

Catholic leaders have pressed Jonathan’s government to dialogue with Boko Haram, the Islamist sect responsible for violence in northern states that has killed hundreds of Christians. Oritsejafor views the group as terrorists that should be crushed by Nigeria’s military.


Christianity Today

Image: Waterbanks

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