Catholic bishop urges U.S. Secretary of State to build ‘partnership’ with Nigeria to address violence — By: Catholic News Agency

Father Jude Nwachukwu (left) and Father Kenneth Kanwa were kidnapped from their parish rectory in the Diocese of Pankshin in Nigeria on Feb. 1, 2024. / Credit: Ahiara Diocese

CNA Staff, Apr 5, 2024 / 11:15 am (CNA).

A prominent Catholic bishop urged U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in an April 2 letter to engage in a “partnership” with Nigeria to help the nation “withstand the forces of violence and extremism.” 

Bishop Elias Zaidan, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, called on Blinken to “support the concerns of my brother bishops in Nigeria” following the Nigerian bishops’ recent declaration urging their government to address internal corruption, security, and economic issues.

One Nigerian bishop has described the situation in Nigeria as a Christian “genocide.” There have been recent kidnappings and in some cases, murder, of Nigerian Catholic priests as well as a series of massacres last Christmas, where more than 200 Christians were killed.

In the Feb. 22 declaration, the Catholic bishops of Nigeria described the “seriously deteriorating situation” largely in the “security and economy” of Nigeria and urged the government to listen to the “contribution” of all Nigerians.

“The bishops of Nigeria have decried the unabated violence perpetrated by terrorist groups such as Boko Haram and the Islamic State-West Africa Province in the northeastern states, Zaidan noted in his letter

“Local vigilante groups have risen up to defend farmers in the middle belt of the country from armed herdsmen while bandits and gunmen attack villages and motorists, and kidnap innocent people for ransom across the northwest and middle of the country,” he wrote.

Zaidan noted that because of this, Nigeria has more than 3 million internally displaced people, “most of whom have escaped this relentless swell of violence.” 

The bishops called on the nation to “leave all polarizations behind and come together” and added: “We have both the natural and human resources to get this done.” 

“It is no longer acceptable for our leaders to surround themselves only with their political supporters and cronies,” the bishops wrote, adding: “It is time to run government for the common good.”

The Nigerian bishops also highlighted the negative effect of the termination of fuel subsidies and the “drastic devaluation” of the Nigerian currency on the already impoverished and vulnerable in society. 

“The Catholic Church, along with many academics and observers, argue that the root causes of the nationwide violence is pervasive corruption and endemic poverty and a massive failure of governance at the federal level,” Zaidan noted.

Zaidan urged the government to “urgently address” the “disaffection and restiveness” throughout the Nigerian population “to avoid a descent into chaos and anarchy.” 

Building off of the Nigerian bishops’ declaration, Zaidan urged the government to address the “corrosive impact” of corruption, consider increasing security through a state police force, and “invest in the creation of small business.”

“I urge you and your colleagues in the United States Embassy to engage with the local Catholic Church leadership to put these ideas into action,” he wrote. “This region of Africa needs a partnership and the leadership of the United States if it is to withstand the forces of violence and extremism.”

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