‘Poverty and hunger in our country’ unresolved by Buhari government

The Nigerian Bishops’ Conference issued a strong criticism of the country’s government on Thursday, as the Bishops said government leaders had failed to address the ongoing violence in the country or Nigeria’s flagging economy.

The rebuke came ahead of federal elections in Nigeria – which has one of the largest Catholic populations in the world – as bishops criticized the country’s ruling party for running a presidential ticket without a Christian candidate.

The bishops’ message came at the end of a plenary meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN); the meeting began on September 8 and officially ends on Friday.

Heightened insecurity, Nigeria’s poor economy

“The Threshold of a New Dawn in Nigeria” – the CBCN text published on Thursday – focused on two challenges: heightened insecurity in the country and Nigeria’s poor economy.

In both cases, the Bishops said the government of President Muhammadu Buhari had failed to protect Nigerians from poverty and violence.

“We continue to denounce the worsening insecurity in our country as well as the activities of terrorists and insurgents, kidnappers and bandits. Armed robberies and cybercrimes continued unabated.

“Attacks on travelers and worshipers in churches and other places of worship have become too frequent,” the bishops wrote, noting a Pentecost Sunday attack on a parish that left 41 dead and more than 70 injured.

The Bishops said the Nigerian government had not done enough to combat anti-Christian terrorism.

“Unfortunately, the government has not lived up to its security duties. We observe that even when suspects have been arrested, there is not even a diligent prosecution of the perpetrators of these nefarious acts, thus leaving citizens helpless and desperate.

“We continue to call on civil authorities to fulfill their constitutional responsibility to protect the lives and property of Nigerians,” the Bishops wrote.

Regarding Nigeria’s economy, the Bishops said that inflation and spiraling public debt have aggravated a bad situation and intensified the emigration of young, educated Nigerians from their country.

“Due to mismanagement and a failing economy with an ever-increasing debt burden, there is poverty and hunger in our country, despite our enormous human and natural resources. Rampant inflation, high costs of goods and services, rising unemployment, crude oil theft and non-functioning refineries have inflicted untold hardship on citizens,” they wrote on Thursday.

“Furthermore, governments have resorted to unnecessary borrowing, jeopardizing the well-being of present and future generations – this poor state of our economy has led to the mass migration of our human capital, especially professional and skilled, fleeing the nation in search of greener pastures.

The Church, Politics and the Common Good

Addressing a country where Christians face massive unemployment, loss of property due to terrorism and persistent and unprosecuted acts of violence, the bishops stressed that Christians are not powerless to bring about change .

“Every citizen must know, from childhood, that he is a stakeholder in the political affairs of his country; that they are actors and not mere spectators. Only when the people are enlightened to realize their duties to the nation and their rights can they escape the bondage of political manipulation and ignorance of their electoral habits,” the Bishops demanded. .

The Nigerian bishops have emphasized a vision of politics centered on the Catholic sense of the common good, drawing on themes highlighted in the Second Vatican Council and the social documents of recent popes.

“The Church teaches that politics is for the common good, in which it finds its full justification and meaning and the source of its inherent legitimacy. As such, political authority should be exercised within the bounds of the moral order and directed towards the common good,” they wrote.

“Out of respect for all of God’s children, the Church does not identify with or associate itself with any political party. Nevertheless, the Church is not indifferent or neutral to the formation and activities of the political community.

As a growing number of Nigerian Christians have expressed disaffection with political activity, especially in the predominantly Muslim northern parts of the country, the bishops have urged Catholics to get involved in public life .

They urged “the Catholic lay faithful, especially those who have talents for the difficult but noble art of politics or whose talents in the matter can be developed, to prepare themselves for it and, forgetting their conveniences and their interests material, to engage in political activity in accordance with the common good and the establishment of moral order.

The laity must “accept as their divine vocation the task of sanctifying the world as leaven from within,” the bishops added.

Bishops are preparing to offer Mass during the 2023 Plenary Session of the Nigerian Bishops’ Conference. Credit: RCCS.

“The Future of the Nation”

The bishops’ conference made no specific mention of candidates for the February 2023 presidential election. But the bishops’ statement stressed the importance of free and fair elections – a focus observers will take as criticism of Buhari, who is frequently accused by pro-democracy supporters of rigging elections and intimidating voters.

The bishops have also pushed for more transparency in the electoral process.

“We recognize the President’s commitment to ensuring a level playing field for all candidates in the[2023elections”wrotetheBishops[2023elections”thebishopswrote[électionsde2023″ontécritlesévêques[2023elections”thebishopswrote

“Furthermore, we commend the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for its innovations, particularly in the area of ​​technology, to ensure free, fair and credible elections. However, we urge the Commission to ensure that this technology is deployed in a transparent manner, in order to increase the confidence of the people in the electoral process”, they argued.

In remarks that could be interpreted as criticism of Buhari’s APC party, the bishops said that “politics is a noble calling. We therefore encourage all politicians to uphold the values ​​of integrity and decency. We strongly condemn as illegal and culpable all forms of vote buying and selling and advise all politicians and voters to refrain from doing so.

“While it is not for us as religious leaders to dictate to political parties the choices of their presidential, vice-presidential and other candidates, we have a duty to advise citizens to keep in mind the implications of these choices when electing the next round of leadership candidates.

“We therefore renew our appeal to all our faithful, laity and clergy, to come out en masse vote for people of unassailable integrity, who have the right character, ability and track record to lift our nation out of the current socio-political and economic slump, regardless of partisan, religious and ethnic affiliations,” the Bishops wrote. .

“It is through the right political choices that our current situation can be improved.”

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