From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Archbishop of Abuja Catholic Archdiocese, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, yesterday, expressed the fears that political and religious leaders could hasten the collapse of Nigeria through their divisive actions.
The cleric in his Palm Sunday homily delivered at Holy Trinity Catholic church, Maitama, Abuja, accused political and religious leaders of fanning the embers of hatred, disunity, ethnic and religious intolerance in the country.
Said Kaigama: “We seem to dwell more on the externals of religion and issues that heighten unnecessary competition and tension. We spend billions of naira on pilgrimage and construction of places of worship in prime areas, but worry less about what fosters peace and harmony. We seem to be finger-pointing, intolerant, insensitive and too short-sighted to see the good in the others.
“When it comes to religion in Nigeria, we fail to distinguish between substance and accident. Unnecessary tensions build between Muslims and Christians, and even within the same religious tradition of protestants, pentecostals and Catholics, or Islamic sect members who directly or indirectly malign or antagonise one another.
“Our religious pettiness culminating in needless quarrels and tensions is sometimes spearheaded, surprisingly, by intelligent and well exposed Nigerians, and even some leaders in government. Rather than building a ‘paradise’ called Nigeria, we argue more about religious superiority, and do very little about improving social infrastructure, quality of education, health-care, etc.
“Some religious leaders complicate issues by their unhelpful statements that polarise and antagonise. We equally seem to forget that the hood does not make the monk, neither does the garb make the Imam. It’s such a pity that we have become so religiously hypersensitive that we often turn political, social and justice issues into competition about religious domination.”
Kaigama, however, pointed to some Palm Sunday lessons for political and religious leaders.
“Jesus led by example. He provided basic needs such as bread, water and healing for the sick. Even though He was aware of the dangers of going to Jerusalem, He still went and suffered indignities, leading to His death to win life for the people. For the sake of the people, political and religious leaders in Nigeria must be prepared to even take risks injurious to their interests and not merely regard their people as objects of exploitation.”
He urged Nigerians to pray and learn the disposition of humility, self giving and unconditional love of Jesus, so that they could witness more peace and progress the country.
Also, Catholic Bishop of Oyo Diocese, Rev. Emmanuel Badejo, in his Palm Sunday message, charged Christians to promote the virtues of Christ in their service to mankind.
He made the call in Ibadan saying the story of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem as narrated in Matthew’s gospel should spur Christians to open their hearts to God.
“As Christians, we need to open our lives to God, promote the things that Christ did and aspire to live in holiness. We should show deep commitment to service, knowing that through Christ, we shall get salvation.”
Badejo said Palm Sunday celebration should challenge Christians to take a stand for Christ, adding that believers should be consistent in their commitment to the truth.
“Palm Sunday represents dignity, beauty, well being and victory, it should never be jettisoned for sin and evil. It holds a lot of significance for youths, young people must never lose hope, they must believe in their dreams.
“This is the most holy week in Christendom, it is the week in which the key events of the history of salvation are celebrated. During Holy Week, the Catholic Church commemorates the institution of the priesthood, the sacraments and the Eucharist. The Good Friday is also celebrated during the week to commemorate the death of Christ on the cross,” he said.