Don’t rule “over the ruins“ Justin Welby tells Nigerian leaders
Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has asked Nigerian leaders if they are “prepared to serve in the great building that is Nigeria, or do you insist on ruling, even if only over the ruins?”
Speaking “bluntly as an Archbishop, God knows our true deeds, and we will all face the judgement of God, Muslim and Christian, African Traditional Religion or even atheist. Before God there are no deceptions, no excuses,” Archbishop Welby said.
Archbishop Welby, giving the keynote address at the pre-election interfaith conference in Abuja on Saturday 13 October, said having been to Nigeria a number of times in the last 40 years, “anything that touches Nigeria touches me deeply. Nigeria has been my teacher, my friend and my passion.”
“When I hear of Nigeria’s difficulties and problems, whether it be terrorism, or economic hardship or the deaths of farmers – too often Christian farmers – I am deeply distressed. I mourn as for a member of my family,” Welby said.
Nigeria’s challenge with “insecurity, poverty and the economy, corruption and ethnic division, together with interfaith suspicions” must be addressed honestly and openly Welby said.
“Peace requires justice. Attacks cannot be treated with impunity. Truth needs telling and arriving at the truth that is to be told is a complex process,” the Anglican leader told the conference.
The head of the worldwide Anglican Communion called for peace in Nigeria pointing out that “that the desire for peace is universal but not unconditional.” Even though, he said, “in conflict, every person’s so-called truth is their own.”
It is however “in a place of security and hope that they can adjust their perception of truth, see their own faults and sins as well as those of the other, and learn to seek peace. To accept diversity, or disagreement – in other words, reconciliation.”
Archbishop Welby pointed out: “When injustice and violence are perpetrated, especially in the name of religion, it is the responsibility of political and religious leaders to speak out and condemn that injustice and violence.”
Justin Welby also met with the two main Presidential candidates running for the 2019 general elections, President Muhammadu Buhari who is seeking a second term and Atiku Abubakar, the flag bearer of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Though the details of the separate meetings was not made available, the meeting, expectedly, was about the peaceful conduct of the coming general elections that is already generation tension in the country and adding the fears that there is likely to be an outbreak of violence and loss of lives.
Justin welby had said at the conference that “as Nigeria approaches the 2019 election date, I implore the electorate and aspirants at all levels of politics to set a standard for themselves that is even much higher than what happened here in 2015” and called for a peaceful and credible election.
The Archbishop threw a challenge to Christian leaders saying “Where politicians fail the people in the performance of their elected duties, religious leaders should advise the politicians privately. If their advice is not heeded, they must exercise their public prophetic role and speak truth to power.” He warned all the religious leaders not to “condone the wrong deeds of public officials just because they belong to our Churches or Mosques. Neither can we just sound off,” Welby said.
President Muhammadu Buhari, on his facebook page responding to the visit by Archbishop Welby, said, “I sincerely hope 2019 will move us closer to these goals and so I look forward to peaceful, fair and credible elections come 2019.” And tweeted his “personal appreciation to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, who in spite of his busy schedule accepted to be the keynote speaker at this important conference.”
Hassan john is West Africa editor GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos