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Archbishop of Jos Speaks on Boko Haram, Living With Fear and Faith in Nigeria Explains ‘Dialogue of Life’ With Muslims

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Abba Kyari: Archbishop commiserates with President Buhari

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, President of the Nigerian bishops’ conference, recently spent a few days in New York—a brief respite from his increasingly violence-ridden country, where the jihadists of Boko Haram continue to kill indiscriminately, Muslims and Christians alike.

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama2

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama

 

Within the span of a week in late July, the group set off two bombs that killed 100; an assault on a Catholic church in the city of Kano left five dead; and, in a highly disturbing development, young girls as young as 10 are becoming suicide bombers. Meanwhile, July 30 marked the 100th day since Boko Haram’s kidnapping of nearly 300 young girls, most of them Christians.

The archbishop spoke with international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need on July 31.

 

*Q: Leaving Islamic extremism aside for a moment, what is the relationship between Christians and Muslims like in Nigeria?*

 

Archbishop Kaigama: There is a fairly healthy competition between the two. It is often a struggle about geographical expansion and the politics of data. Each religious group is claiming numerical superiority, but the records don’t bear that out. There is more pronounced inter-religious tension in the north. In the south there is a more liberal approach to Muslim-Christian relation. There is a better understanding of marriage between Christians and Muslims and the spirit of fanaticism or fundamentalism is less pronounced.

 

In the north, generally, a Muslim man can marry a Muslim or a Christian woman; but a Muslim woman cannot marry a Christian. In the south, though there are cases of prominent Muslim men marrying Christian women and allowing them to continue to practice their faith. That the Muslim north has been dominant politically is a legacy of colonialism. When it came to the transfer of power in 1960, the British chose to take advantage of the indirect rule and the practice of sharia, which made for a certain stability and order.

 

*Q: You are a believer in dialogue.*

 

Archbishop Kaigama: We do our best to create harmony and understanding. There is the Christian Association of Nigeria and the Nigeria Interreligious Council. These bodies bring Muslims and Christians together. Let’s explore where we come together and where we differ. We are not just fighting each other—that is a misleading caricature of our country.

 

*Q: But given the differences between the two, what can dialogue really achieve? There is such a theological and philosophical gap.*

 

Archbishop Kaigama: But it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. In the midst of darkness or violence it is better to light a candle—a candle of hope to dispel the terrible darkness of violence. True, we cannot get into theology because there won’t be any progress. There is what we call the “Dialogue of Life.” There is no alternative than to come together, as human beings—drink tea or coffee together. Let’s get to know each other. There can be some cross fertilization of ideas. The “Dialogue of Life” means simply, ‘your life affects mine, and mine affects yours.’ It is quite simple. It is not about producing instant results, but to be friends and to be engaged in conversation. I started this process in a modest way in Jos, where things were very bad when I was first appointed to the Archdiocese.

 

*Q: Is the government simply not up to the task of properly managing the country? Things were pretty bad even before Boko Haram burst upon the scene.*

 

Archbishop Kaigama: Our leaders simply are not very sensitive to the poor, even when aid is available. The Church, with its limited possibilities, tries to promote dialogue, providing relief and in terms of simply being there. We stand out prominently—not to boast—because we have been helpful beyond political and religious divides. This goodwill comes from the heart, and the people appreciate it. People come to me for help and often I feel embarrassed because I can do so little. We end up being social workers. I thought my work was just to bless people … but I also have to worry about water and electricity.

 

*Q: Do people join Boko Haram?*

Archbishop Kaigama: It is difficult to say, because we don’t really know who they are. They could be your neighbors; your friends across the road. I always say, ‘you know them only when they are dead—when they have blown themselves up as suicide bombers.’ They use nice cars because they want to be seen as respectable; then before you know it, there is an explosion.

 

*Q: Do you believe Boko Haram gets funding from abroad?*

 

Archbishop Kaigama: Both in and outside Nigeria there are serious sympathizers. Up to now our government has not been able to smoke them out though. There should be ways to trace financing and other forms of support, but I don’t believe that our government is making this a top priority. We hope that with the help of the international community they can stem the flow of weapons and funds coming in. But, contrary to my expectations, nothing much has happened, even in the wake of the abduction of the schoolgirls which made headlines around the world. Boko Haram is well trained and well supplied. Who is helping the organization? I do suspect foreign funding. But, despite lots of money spent by our government and the military, answers are still grossly lacking.

 

*Q: It seems Boko Haram has broadened its range of targets, to include moderate Muslims as well as state institutions across the board.*

 

Archbishop Kaigama: At first we thought that they were simply against Western education and wanted to propagate what they believed was the

authentic message of Islam. Then they went after the government, and next came the churches. The attacks on churches have happened in many places,

with the tragic loss of life, and they have continued to this day. We must not forget that Muslim places of worship have also been targets. The

repeated attacks in Kano and Kaduna show that the fight has gone beyond the religions of Islam and Christianity. In fact, many Muslims and Christians

of good will are speaking a common language now and are exploring ways to bring an end to this menace.

 

*Q: Are you afraid personally?*

 

Archbishop Kaigama: Well, yes, it is normal to be afraid. But given my task, I have given up everything to serve God and his people. I don’t have a biological family, wife and children, any possession I can call my own. If I should lose my life in the process of defending people’s rights to freedom of worship and the unity of humanity, apart from my beloved pastoral collaborators and excellent people of goodwill (from various religious and ethnic backgrounds) I would leave behind, I have no other liabilities. While one does not court death, it is an inevitable end for all of us, including even for those who claim they are killing and bombing in the name of God. Certain as death will come, still, one is afraid of death, which is true for everybody.

 

*Q: Have you received any threats?*

 

Archbishop Kaigama: Thank God, no, but I know that my movements and activities and even my cell phone are being monitored. But since I plan no evil, encourage no evil or support no evil, I have nothing to hide.

 

*Q: What do you tell your priests and religious when it comes to coping with fear.*

 

Archbishop Kaigama: I go out. I never miss any public functions or ceremonies. That tells them that I am with them, and with the people. Even if violence takes place not far away, I go out in public, wearing my formal garb, to be present. Government officials stay away. I don’t have security detail—that would be a magnet for the evildoers. The militants hate police.

 

Plus, protecting myself would make me a prisoner—aside from the money we’d have to spend from our meagre resources. It would make the people afraid! Imagine if priests would go around with protection. We believe God is with us. We believe that we will triumph despite the machinations of the evildoers.

 

*Q: Do you believe Boko Haram is evil?*

 

Archbishop Kaigama: Absolutely! When you kill and destroy not only combatants but women and children, poor people, it is evil. In the attack on the Jos market, 118 died; they were not office workers or important people; those who died were orange sellers, groundnut sellers, milk sellers, looking to make a little money for the evening. This is an expression of evil.

 

*Q: What do the people need most?*

 

Archbishop Kaigama: They need comfort. The first thing I will do upon my return from this journey is to go to a parish; and to join a celebration of a congregation that celebrates its 50th anniversary. I will stay in a village that has no electricity—no matter. I have to be present.

 

*Q: Because of the shortage of priests, a growing number of Nigerian priests are coming to the US to serve in parishes. What is the gift of Nigerian spirituality, the charism of the Nigerian Church? What is your gift to the universal Church?*

 

Archbishop Kaigama: Nigerians are a very resilient people. We have gone through so much—civil war, violence, the atrocities of Boko Haram—but you find every Nigerian still smiling and ready to go. We never say it is all ending. That vibrant spirit we also bring into the Church. Our liturgies

are something special—it is not just a routine affair. By Friday, everybody is already thinking about Sunday—to prepare. On Saturday, the dresses are being washed and readied. That tells you—something big is expected. Also, because we don’t have many social and recreational opportunities, Sunday Mass is both a spiritual and social event.

 

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USAID begins Covid-19 testing in Imo rural areas

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USAID averts 25,000 unwanted pregnancies in Ebonyi, Kogi

…Umuagwo Varsity of Agric kicks-off October

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has begun Covid-19 testing in the 27 Local Government Areas of Imo State, “in a bid to reduce the impact of community spread of the virus in the rural areas of the state.

The Imo State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Chief Declan Mbadiwe Emelumba disclosed this in Owerri while briefing newsmen on the outcome of the Weekly Executive Council meeting presided over by Governor Hope Uzodimma on Wednesday.

Chief Emelumba said so far, the USAID officials have carried out reasonable number of testing in Njaba LGA and reported that all those tested came out negative and that the council prayed that the result from other Local Government Areas will be the same.

He announced that the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) has approved the take off of the Imo State University for Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Umuagwo in October this year.

According to him, the approval underscores the efforts which the Imo State Government ably led by Governor Hope Uzodinma has made towards the establishment of a second university for the state.

Recently, the NUC panel was in Imo State to carry out the necessary verification exercises on the state facilities, human and physical infrastructures.

Mr. Declan Emelumba, who was flanked by the Commissioner for Education, Prof. Bernard Ikegwuoha, Commissioner for Health Dr. Damaris Osunkwo and the Chief Press Secretary/Media Adviser to the Governor Mr. Oguwike Nwachuku, informed that the Executive Council is happy that something new is happening in the Education Sector of the State.

Emelumba said that the Imo State University of Science and Environmental Sciences, Umuagwo will take off by October when other universities would be resuming for a new academic session.

In the same vein, the Council has approved the immediate relocation of Faculty of Engineering Imo State University Owerri to its permanent site at Okigwe, stressing that Government has put all processes and facilities on ground to ensure the immediate take–off of the faculty.

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Imo Governor’s aide visits Oziza FM Staff, Ogechi Iwu in hospital

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Imo Governor’s aide visits Oziza FM  Staff, Ogechi Iwu in hospital

The Chief Press Secretary and Media Adviser to Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State, Mr. Oguwike Nwachuku has visited Mr. Ogechi Iwu, a journalist with Osiza FM.

The media man is hospitalized at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Owerri over complications from diabetes that led to his right leg being amputated.

Mr. Nwachuku said the visit was to show solidarity on behalf of Governor Uzodimma to his professional colleague, assuring him of their prayers, particularly that of his principal, and the prayers of Mr. Iwu’s numerous friends and well wishers who are touched by his plight.

“I am here on behalf of my principal to associate with him in this time of health challenge and to encourage him not to see the sickness as a death sentence.”

Oge Iwu at fmc

L-R: Chief Akaraonye, Mr. Oguwike Nwachuku with Ogechi Iwu during the visit

Mr. Nwachuku urged Mr. Iwu to continue in the high spirit he saw him and trust God for his total recovery “because healing is a thing of mind and when a sick person is in high spirit the patient gets recovered quickly.”

The spokesman of the Governor promised to bring the plight of the journalist to the attention of his principal, and assured that the Governor will, in his usual manner of one with milk of human sympathy, show concern over Iwu’s plight.

Earlier, Mr. Iwu thanked the CPS/Media Adviser, the State Chairman of NUJ, Imo State, Chief Christopher Akaraonye and other journalists who were on the entourage, for coming to identify with him on his sick bed, and assured that God in his infinite mercy will quicken his recovery.

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Bishop Ugorji heads IMSU Governing Council

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Bishop Ugorji heads IMSU Governing Council

Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma has inaugurated a new Governing Council, for the Imo State University, IMSU, Owerri.

At the inauguration ceremony on Monday, August 31, the governor named Most Rev. Lucius Ugorji as the Chairman of the Governing Council and Pro-Chancellor of the University.

Other members of the Council include: Chief Leo Stan Ekeh, Chief Tony Ezenna, Prof. (Ven.) Chinedu Nebo, Sir. Louis Ezeigwe, Chief Engr. Ernest Nwapa, Dr. (Mrs.) Uwandu Uzoma, Ugoeze Victoria Adaku Ekezie, Prof. Adaobi Obasi (Vice Chancellor) and others.

Speaking at the inauguration, Governor Uzodimma said the choice of the members is to infuse fresh air into the university because “It is in dire need to bounce back to reckoning.”
He added that the choice of the members was because they have carved a niche for themselves in their chosen fields of endeavour and that they have earned solid reputation as men and women of substance in their individual trade, indices that qualified them for the appointment.

He challenged the members to bring their reputation to bear on the University, bearing in mind the task for good quality scholarship in Imo State University as well as service to humanity.

The Governor urged the members to deploy their individual accomplishments, excellence, expertise, passion for service as effectively as necessary to actualize the dream of his administration of having a highly reputable University comparable to the best Universities in the World.

He also requested the Council to “restore in words and deeds the motto of Imo State University, which is Excellence in Service”.

“Imo State University currently is a classical example of a failed University,” Governor Uzodimma said but strongly believed that “with a star studded Governing Council such as the one inaugurated there is no doubt that Imo is on the track to realize the dreams of her founding fathers.”

He further enjoined the Council members to quickly hit the ground running and come up with policies and programmes that will reassure Imo people that the University that made them proud 20 years back is on track as he assured them of Government partnership in this regard.

In an acceptance speech, on behalf of the Council, the Chairman, Most Rev. Ugorji who is the Catholic Bishop of Umuahia thanked the Governor for the absolute confidence reposed in them by giving them the assignment and acknowledged that though the task is daunting he has a strong belief that with the calibre of members of the Council and support of the management, staff and students the University will be returned to a centre of excellence which was the dream of the founding fathers.

He said that Imo State University deserves the best and that he and his members as inaugurated will work acidulously to ensure that the target of the governor in making Imo State University one of the best universities in Africa is realised.

He congratulated fellow members and promised that God’s willing, they will not fail the government and people of Imo State.

Present at the inauguration were the Deputy Governor, Prof. Placid Njoku, the Speaker Imo State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Chiji Collins, the Secretary to the State Government, Chief Cosmas Iwu, and other members of the expanded State Executive Council.

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