Sunday, 16 February 2020

Buhari Lied On 90% Killing Of Moslems By Boko Haram...Catholic Church

The Secretary General of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN), Rev. Fr. Zachariah Samjumi, has said that the recent statement by President Muhammadu Buhari that Muslims were 90 per cent victims of the Boko Haram insurgency in the country is an act of insensitivity.

Samjumi, a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Yola, told Sunday Sun in Abuja that every day Nigerians wake up, the number of people killed and attacked were majorly Christians, with those in the minority in the North, asking: “Who are the people leaving their villages? Who are the IDPs and the rest?”

According to Samjumi, “we know that they are mixed up, but the majority are people coming from the Christian side, the minority group. You go to the Northeast, the Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa in Nigeria, the EYN Church, they are the people that are mostly decimated.”

Turning to the president, Samjumi said: “I think that the president, sorry to say, I think he is not sensitive enough to say that 90 per cent of the people killed are Muslims. Well, he may have the statistics, but I don’t think that he is sensitive enough.”

Samjumi also spoke on the general state of insecurity in the country, the role of the Catholic Secretariat, return of mission schools to the Catholic Church, the return of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) to the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) fold, Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka’s prophecies, amongst others. Excerpts:

On your website, you wrote that as the administrative headquarters of the CBCN, there is no doubt that the social profile of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria is intimidating in many respects, both within and outside the country. How intimidating?

Intimidating is perhaps, the word that is used to capture, so to speak, the kind of arrangement, the structure that is there; well laid out structure. That would be what it is when you say it is intimidating.

Even though the CBCN speaks on national issues from time to time, people are surprised that the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria that used to be very vocal on national issues, has remained silent in the face of the ills and odds in the society, particularly insecurity. What is responsible for this?

I don’t think that is the true picture of your description. The Catholic Secretariat in the first place, is the administrative arm of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria. It exists actually to carry out the policies, the decisions of the bishops of Nigeria, in other words, the Catholic Church in Nigeria. The bishops, when they come in plenary, it is actually the work of the Catholic Secretariat to see that the meetings are carried out successfully and whatever information they have, they are done in a way that is good and meaningful. The Catholic Secretariat itself, from time to time, we have our Catholic Secretariat Forum where we talk on national issues, issues concerning the Church and society. So, it has been doing that, perhaps, we have not been getting good press attention.

In spite of the situation you have just painted, there are still some people who have been following the activities of the secretariat, who believe that the Catholic Secretariat was more vocal in the past, particularly during the military era and it is no more so. These sets of people believe that maybe some of your predecessors, by their actions, brought the secretariat to its knees by not using it as a tool to correct happenings in the society. Do you agree?

It is a perspective. The Church is always prophetic. And you rightly mentioned ‘during the military era.’ During the military administrations, there were a lot of abuses at that time, so the Church was expected to speak and that was why the leadership of the Catholic Secretariat then was very vocal on those ills, on those issues at the time, to speak out despite whatever will happen. And I think that up till today, the Catholic Secretariat, with the bishops in general, talking out; in fact, I would say that the Church in Nigeria has been talking. It has been talking a lot. So, the Catholic Secretariat is not cut off from the Bishops Conference.

But is it that the bishops are no longer giving free hand to the secretariat as they used to do?

Of course, whatever we do, it has to be censored by the bishops so that you do not misrepresent the Church. So, if I am speaking now, I will tell you I am speaking as Father Zechariah. I am not speaking as the Bishops Conference; and I am not speaking as the Catholic Secretariat. So, those are some of the issues.

What are the challenges facing the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria?

Of course, every organization will have its challenges. As a Catholic Secretariat in Nigeria, I think that our structures are good. We have a well laid out structure. For example, in the Catholic Secretariat, we have what you call Pastoral Affairs, a department that handles the worship situation of the Church; the life of the Church itself. So, it looks after that. That will concern its liturgy, the laws in the Church, evangelization, ethics, and all other things are put under that. You also have the Department of Mission and Dialogue to look at the issues of mission – the work of the Church, the reason for which the Church exists and at the same time, knowing that it is not only the Church in the whole world. We are living with other people, so we need to dialogue in order to live together. That has its own department and they have been doing their work. So, we have also, the Department of Pastoral Agents and this concerns all those involved in the work of the Church, the personnel of the Church and this is not only priests. And we have different segments of the personnel – the clergy, the religious, those in formation, young people and the generality of the lay faithful. And that department concerns itself with policies, guidelines and issues. Like when we talk of sexual abuse and the rest of them, it is that department that will see to what needs to be done and the rest of them. We also have the Department of Church and Society. And under that comes issues of justice and peace, education, family and human life and health. So, that is the matter with Church and society. And then, we also have generally, administration. That is a separate department. So, you see that the structure is there. Of course, we may have challenges; one that is very obvious would be having the resources to carry out these functions effectively.

The issue of the return of schools to the Catholic Church, is it something that the CBCN puts at the forefront or it has to do with each diocese?

All the states, I must confess, they are not the same. The disposition is not the same. Take, for example, the eastern part of Nigeria: The set up, I would say, is Christian. And you may say you have more Catholics. So, in that case, the disposition to see to the cry of the Church over the years, they will hear it more. When you come to the North, this is a place where even if you want to build a Church, you are not given. To get a little place to build a church, nobody wants to hear. In fact, the land they give to you to build even school, they want to take it away. So, you can see that the takeover of schools, more or less in some of the states up North, is like a blessing for them, something fine, something reasonable that was done. So, the takeover of these schools cannot be done at the national level just like that. It has to be state by state as the case may be.

Let me take you back again. You said the Catholic Church was more alert during the military days because of abuses. Are you trying to say that we are not having such situations in this present time?

We have, we have! The issue of insecurity, I mean, is very obvious. Everybody in Nigeria knows. Everybody! Everybody! All of us, we know that the security situation is horrible. Many of us cannot travel to our villages. We can’t go anywhere.

Is there any way the Church can work with the government to curb the insecurity?

It is the government that has the apparatus to tackle insecurity. So, you wonder how as a Church you will come in. Are you going to form your own police? Are you going to form your own military? What are you going to do as a Church? So, I think as a Church, what we should do is what we have been doing, to tell government that see, things are like this, and things are like this. But in our time, whenever the Church voices this, it is taken as an enemy. Yes! Because it is like you are too critical, you are not seeing the good and you are blaming always. Well, it is the job of the Church.

What is responsible for the government always seeing the Church being too critical?

I intend to see that they don’t want anybody to say anything negative about them. I think so. Generally, I think that is it. The government does not want people to say anything negative. Meanwhile, these are obvious things. Insecurity is too much.

Where do you think all these things are leading us to?

I mean, people have been having very robust conversation on radio, television stations in this country. I hope that the government itself is listening. But whenever we say something like this, you will hear the media representatives of government are coming out and to say things that are very worrisome. Whatever that has been happening, I am a Christian and we know Muslims are also killed. But what we are saying in general is that the security matters are very terrible. Just few days ago, I heard that the president said 90 per cent of those killed were Muslims.

What is your take on that comment?

I think that the president, sorry to say, I think he is not sensitive enough to say that 90 per cent of the people killed are Muslims. Well, he may have the statistics, but I don’t think that he is sensitive enough. Every day we are waking up, the number of people killed, the number of people attacked are Christians. Who are the people leaving their villages? Who are the IDPs and the rest? We know that they are mixed up, but the majority are people coming from the Christian side, the minority group. You go to the Northeast, the Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa in Nigeria, the EYN Church, they are the people that are mostly decimated. Yes! They are the people that are mostly decimated, and people are crying everyday and you are saying, why are you crying, 90 per cent are Muslims, so you have no right to even talk. For me, I think that is not too sensitive.

Do you foresee a religious war?

Well, I don’t think we will reach that level because everybody knows that war is not a solution to most of these things.

As an arm of CAN, has the CBCN returned fully to CAN?



Yeah, at the national level, the CBCN is back to CAN.

What is the relationship between the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria and priests in the country?

As I mentioned to you before, in the Catholic Secretariat, we have a department known as Pastoral Agents. The Pastoral Agents liaise to deal with the issues of priests, the clergy generally across the country. So, these clergy, in the diocesan set up, they have Diocesan Priests Association of Nigeria – Nigerian Priests Association. And the religious, they have their own as a religious coming together as a conference. The same thing with the female religious; they have their own. It is a conference. So, the department works with them – the Association of the Diocesan Priests and that of the Religious Groups. But we do not work as a control unit to the priests. We don’t oversee their actions whatsoever. It is the local ordinary.

Recent prophecies of Fr Ejike Mbaka, particularly on the political space, have continued to generate mixed reactions. I recall that your predecessor once reacted to one of his prophecies. Is Fr Mbaka on the right lane or going against the Church’s doctrines?

Generally speaking and to be honest, every priest, you are supposed to be prophetic. Prophetic in the sense that if there are things going wrong, you point out in society and if there are good things going on, we also commend them. If there are abuses of some sort, you are to speak it out, you are to say it. In this case, the work of the priest is not only limited to the Church, he is also a man of society. So, he can speak on what is happening in the society. But when one limits himself as a priest just to giving predictions, that is not of the work of the Church; that is not the work of the priest to just give out predictions.

I think Fr Mbaka is also fully involved in the pastoral ministry of the Church…


But just that once in a while, he gives prophecies which some people are usually critical of. How do you see the development?

Many bishops have spoken on this matter. We see that it is going like outside his role as a priest. Definitely, the way Mbaka is going is not what the Church teaches; it is not what the Church says a priest should function. But whatever be the case, it is actually the responsibility of his bishop.

To call him to order?

If he is wrong, to call him to order and I think it is not the work of the Catholic Secretariat; it is not the work of the Catholic Bishops Conference. It is just precisely the duty of his bishop.

Do you have information that his bishop, maybe, called him to order in the past or anything like that?

Yes, I can say that. His bishop has called him. I learned he apologised, but that sometimes, in the process of apologising, he causes another stir. You think he is apologising, he then he adds something to it and it becomes another problem.

What is the theme of the forthcoming CBCN first plenary for the year?

The theme is Psalm 119, verse 105: ‘The Word of God is a Lamp to My Feet and a Light to My Path.’

What necessitated it?

Two things: One, this year, the Pope, in commemoration of Saint Jerome whose work was on the Bible, directed that we should go back and let us look at the Word of God once again; that the Bible, the Word of God, is our guide. So, the conference will look on this issue – the Word of God as the guide of Christian life. Secondly, with whatever that is happening in the country, how is the Word of God guiding us? So, that is where we will now see the prophetic role, the duty, what the Word commands us to do – how is the Word a light to all of us?


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