The Catholic Bishops of the West African Sub-region have cautioned leaders and politicians against self-aggrandisement and acquisition of wealth. The prelates noted that such corrupt practices pose enormous obstacles to national development, regional growth and the global goal of ending extreme poverty. According to the Catholic Bishops, abusing political power for personal gain at the expense of the well-being of the people is unjust as it leads to the majority of the citizenry trapped in poverty.
The top ranking clerics also urged Christian politicians, traditional rulers, technocrats, professionals, business men and women, and all Nigerians to live out Christian values to curb corruption, ethnocentrism, sectionalism, and all forms of injustice. They said, “As Church, we call on politicians, other leaders and indeed our people to order in their never-ending craving for self-aggrandizement and acquisition of wealth. We urge Christian politicians, traditional rulers, technocrats, professionals, especially those in the media, business men and women, and indeed all our people to live out their Christian vocation in fighting corruption, ethnocentrism, sectionalism, and all forms of injustice in society.
“We strongly denounce the policies and practices of our governments and leaders who facilitate and permit the exploitation and marginalization of our people and endanger the future of our children. Tragically, some individuals engaged in acts of violence and terrorism which have aggravated the state of insecurity in our sub-region. We call on all never to grow weary in denouncing and rooting out such evils in our midst.” These were some of the resolutions reached at the 4th General Assembly of the Catholic Bishops from the 16 countries of the West African sub-region, comprising the Reunion of Episcopal Conferences of West Africa (RECOWA).
The eight-day assembly, which was held at the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria Resource Centre, Durumi, Abuja, Nigeria from May 2 to 9, 2022, had as its theme: “FratelliTutti: Path to Build Brotherhood and Sustainable Peace in West Africa.” FratelliTutti is the title of the latest encyclical of Pope Francis on Fraternity and social friendship. A communiqué issued at the end of the plenary assembly, stressed that the Church, other religious organizations, governments, political and traditional leaders, civil society organizations and people have a moral and spiritual obligation to ensure that the present generations live in peace and the future generation inherit a habitable West Africa devoid of man-made calamities. The statement read in part, “Let us therefore pursue what promotes peace and mutual edification, Rom. 14, 17- 19.
FratelliTutti calls for the collaboration of all the organs within the Church and with other religions, civil society organizations and governments at all levels. The document also urges us to build up true fraternity to eliminate all forms of tribalism and ethnocentrism that are eating deep into the fabrics of peace and love in our society. “The Pope‘s encyclical emphasises the fact that compassion for man and the planet is an ethical virtue. It flows from faith in Jesus Christ. Complacency, doing nothing to protect the brothers and sisters and not promoting the survival of humanity is sinful. It regrets that the status quo, in which West Africa seems to find itself in matters of peace, which is merely synonymous with the absence of war, is not in any way advancing solutions to the complex problems in which many people and communities in West Africa find themselves today.”
The Reunion of Episcopal Conferences of West Africa urged everyone to embrace fraternity that transcends geographical and ethnic barriers and allows everyone to acknowledge, appreciate, and love one another regardless of the where he or she originates from. The Communiqué read in part, “In our deliberations, it became evident that FratelliTutti can help us in our responsibility of engendering effective pastoral governance and greater social friendship in West Africa and in the entire world. We all, bishops, priests, consecrated persons and the lay faithful are reminded that we are, as Jesus emphasized, the salt of the earth Mt. 5, 13 ff. “Given that many of our people are suffering, we are admonished to show greater Christian commitment to alleviate their sorrows and give them reason to continue living. “The past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic made us to recognise that at the end of the day we are all one family.
It opened our eyes to the fact that we cannot face our problems alone or in isolation. Therefore, we must guard against the culture of indifference and individualism. We must always come together in solidarity to work for our common good. “We bishops therefore urge Christians and all people of goodwill in our sub region to overcome various barriers so as to reach out to others in need. We feel called to give stronger witness to our Christian values. “Our people are hungry, dehumanised and suffering; our youths exposed to life-threatening adventures on the high seas in their bid to discover greener pastures in overseas countries.
We are called upon to give hope to these people.” The 4th General Assembly of the Reunion of Episcopal Conferences of West Africa commenced with a grand opening ceremony on May 2, 2022, which was attended by Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Vatican City; Philip Cardinal Ouedraogo, President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences for Africa and Madagascar, SECAM; John Cardinal Onayekan, Archbishop Emeritus of Abuja; Archbishop Antonio Guido Fillipazzi, Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria; Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, Religious, His Excellency, JeanClaude Kassi-Brou, Chairman, ECOWAS Commission; and many distinguished lay people of all classes. Also in attendance was Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who represented Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Prof. Osinbajo was accompanied by other distinguished Federal Ministers and top government functionaries. The Vice President encouraged the Catholic Church to sustain her prophetic role of promoting truth, justice and peace in good and bad times. Prior to this assembly, RECOWA has held three plenary assemblies – on January 24, 2012, in Yamoussoukro in Côte d’Ivoire; February 23, 2016, in Accra in Ghana; and May 14, 2019, in Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso.