Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Christianity is Under Threat, Says Primate Okoh

Abuja — THE Primate, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh has cautioned African nations, saying that with the level of insecurity, poverty, doctrine of prosperity among other factors, it is obvious that the Christian faith is seriously under threat in the continent.

The primate who was speaking at the 2012 Divine Common Wealth Conference (DIVCCON) with the theme: 'Contending For The Faith' in Abuja, said there is need by all Christians to imbibe common Christian faith in line with the Bible.

His words: "The Christian faith is seriously under attack in Nigeria from without and within. From without, we are concerned about violent expressions of Islam represented by Boko Haram. "In some parts of the North, the Christian faith is an endangered specie. Boko Haram is not just against Christians, but has stated emphatically that it wants the Christian faith rooted out of the North.

"This is the idea behind the bombings, shootings, slaughtering and maiming it has been executing. As a result of the violence, many Christians have been intimidated and had relocated to safer places. Our dioceses in Maiduguri, Damaturu, Kano, Bauchi, Yola, Zaria, Jos, etc are now drastically depopulated.

"The next threat is African Traditional Religion, and its various expressions in cults. This is a threat in two ways: outright violent confrontations as in the examples of Afikpo Diocese, Diocese on the Coast, Western Izon, etc. The other threat is more subtle, presenting paganism as culture and tradition, with many ignorant Christians swallowing it hook, line and sinker; thus promoting a syncretistic faith.

"The main threat from within is, disunity among Christians which exposes the Church to so many disadvantages. There is scarcely a common understanding of how to approach the advance of violent Islam - some canvass fire-for-fire approach; others believe that Christians must continue praying and even try to preach to the Muslims with a view to converting them. Meanwhile, the killing and Muslim advance continue unchecked.

"In between the two extremes are those who believe in dialogue and seminars. Unfortunately, Boko Haram is a faceless mafia, which makes this proposition merely academic, and non-effectual. Another threat from within the Church is the fact of nominalism - the case of faith that is one mile wide and one inch deep, leading to distorted beliefs.

An aspect of this fact arising partly from it is the ease with which individual traders, carpenters, civil servants, housewives, unemployed graduates now establish their own churches, become the archbishops, general overseers and teach whatever catches their fancies.

"In addition, against the harsh economic realities of our country, is the growth and acceptance of the doctrine of prosperity. All this distort the orthodox faith. In the larger African setting, violent religious extremists such as we have in Nigeria are spreading to other African countries such as Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

"Recently, in Dar es Salaam, seven churches were burnt by Muslims on the excuse that a boy urinated near a mosque. Kenyan and Ugandan churches have at different times been attacked by the extremist Al-Shabaab Islamic group which is very active in East Africa. Kenya is executing a full military campaign against this sect.

"The situation in Sudan is complex and complicated. The Islam of Sudan is a fundamentalist brand, and there is a high traffic between that country, Nigeria, Kenya and other neighbouring countries. In addition to all this, there is the fluid situation in Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood as well as the boiling situation in Lybia. Again, Nigeria is exposed. Apart from all this, the Twareg rebels in North Mali have added to the threatening situation against Christianity.

"They have formed a group, movement for Jihad in West Africa, which openly threatened Nigeria, should it send troops to intervene in the situation in Mali. Furthermore, the problem of disunity is growing within the African Church (provinces) at CAPA, with the rich Western powers employing effectively the divide-and-rule tactics by literally buying consciences of church leaders.

"We also have political, social and economic problems which equally threaten our faith such as political instability, poverty and hunger as well as the hydra-headed dragon so well known in Africa, corruption! The problem of war and internally displaced persons all combine to make the African Christian Faith quite tenuous.

"In the wider Anglican Communion, the picture is not brighter. In England and Scotland the political authorities have taken over the homosexual crusade; they are moving slowly but steadily towards TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada.

"We pray for the new Archbishop of Canterbury. Officially, only the Roman Catholic Church authorities are standing for historical orthodoxy. And of course, the last Indianapolis Convention Resolutions have made it clear that TEC has no sentiments about Orthodoxy and the rest of the Communion. Where does this leave us?

"The 'faith' is something which is delivered to us. It is not something which we have discovered for ourselves. The facts of our faith are handed down to us from generation to generation a tradition, going back to Jesus Himself.

"The Christian faith is something which is once and for all delivered to us. There is something permanent and unchangeable about its content, but certainly to be rediscovered and appropriated in every age. It is this: Jesus Christ came into the world and lived and died to bring salvation to men.

"The Christian faith is something which is entrusted to God's consecrated people. It is not the property of any one person. It comes down within the Church, it is preserved within the Church, and it is understood within the Church.

"The Christian faith is something which must be defended. Every Christian is a defender of this Faith. Every Christian of every generation must defend it. It is the duty of every generation to pass it on uncorrupted and unperverted," the primate stated.

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