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THE CHURCH AND THE NATION NIGERIA

ALLOW ME TO BEGIN BY thanking God for the privilege to witness this day. His grace the Archbishop Emeritus, our own Baba, has been such a gift that nothing can be more satisfying than being part of honouring him and saying thank you for a life of service God has given him.

There are many entering middle age who think he was born bishop because they have known him as such most of their lives. But there are those of us as young boys in Loyola College who remembered Fr. Job in the time of Bishop Finn. In all those years his constant support has been invaluable. I know I was here for the 70thbirthday, I believe I was at the 60th and hope to be at the 90th by God's Grace.

For the many things to say to  thank His Grace,  I can include his being the chief celebrant at the Mass marking my own 50th birthday. Your Grace, may you live until you die and then live forever.

The church has been critical to both the evolution of the Nigerian nation and the nature of evolving society in Nigeria. Our discussion involves an effort at the explication of trends that have influenced the evolution of the church, the country and current challenges posed to the faith in the country.

The Colonial Legacy and Clerical Mindset

Our good fortune in receiving the faith in a season of colonial hegemony comes in the fact that the colonizing authority, Britain fancied the economics of leaving the missionaries to provide them the socialization of the indigenous population into the values of the colonizer while they faced ensuring law and order and creating the conditions for trade and extractive ventures. The colonial authority needed therefore to provide the authoritative cover work in mission fields which made evangelization less troubling than it could have been.  But those interests of the colonizing authorities also created problems the Faith is contending with today.

The convenience of indirect rule, especially in the North where the Emirate system was established meant a tacit understanding to discourage evangelizing the far North. This has allowed a largely Christian South and Moslem North with consequences we see today.

But there is the other colonial era influence issue of missionaries, as foreigners, deploying distance as a tool for sustaining authority. The view of the Foreigner, Priest or Religious having to be distant or removed to be effective.

Unfortunately, the indigenous clergy, as the indigenous politician in another sphere, continued in the ways of the foreigners they succeeded, such that part of the issue in the Nigerian church is to take away the clerical mentality this has foisted on the church.

In some ways these have been a lasting effect of that one means of formation that allow people to truly know their faith.

Evolution of the Nigerian State

From a minimalist colonial state interested principally in law and order and export of raw materials to Europe self-government led Nigeria into seeking the industrialization of a cash crop economy.

The competition for development between ethnic dominated regions produced a political economy of competing ethnic nationality groups on who would most bring progress to their people. This would be captured by two American academics, Robert Melson and Howard Wolpe as  Competitive  Communalism.

That would give way as soldiers and oil would converge to create a new alchemy in which  the  emphases were command and control centralized governing and a desire to share a national wealth from Oil. This phenomenon  came to be known  as Bureaucratic Prebendalism.

These have generally led to a deepening of poverty and limited investment in education which makes for a large underclass easily exploited in politics of religious and ethnic cleavages which Robert Kaplon in his book: The Coming Anarchy, suggests would be the basis for state collapse.

The Current Crisis 

One can  look at the current  challenges for the  faith  in Nigeria  from  internal  and  external perspectives.

Internally, poor understanding of the Faith and the sociological conditions in changing content of the nature of the Herdsmen trade increases the problem of better containing problem.

We are unfortunate that since Pope Leo XIII left us the Encyclical Rerum Novarum in 1891, the Popes have left us a rich deposit of the churches Social Teaching. But lack of knowledge has been in the way of how such knowledge is explored as a way of engaging the crisis of the Faith in Nigeria.

St Pope John Paul the second, from his homily in Kaduna in February of 1982 to his urging of the Bishops of Nigeria when he visited under Abacha in 1998 and his post synodal Apostolic exhibition Christifideles Laici has urged an active engagement of the lay faithful in both an apostolate of public opinion, politics and expansion of the Kingdom. Obviously, this includes advancing the territory of the Common Good. But he disagrees with the activism in which priests took arms in Latin American under the idea of Liberation Theology.

Pope John Paul II successor Benedict the XVI had as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger sustained a criticism of the Latin flavor Liberation theology. In his halt Space Slave, he deepens this thesis of social man and the priestly soul which flows from Ratzinger's book of conversations: Salt of the Earth.

How is globalization challenging the church today?

Please notice that by making this distinction I am neither nit-picking nor splitting hairs for the sake of theoretical thinking. On the contrary, by differentiating ‘globalization’ and ‘globalism’ I’m trying to look directly into its effects over reality and point to the two main groups of challenges currently presented by globalization in its broader sense:

I) One group of challenges includes those of a more material nature, directly associated with development, social justice, physical well-being, poverty, pollution and environmental issues, migration, just to name a few;

II) The other group of challenges is more of a spiritual type (or immaterial), associated with the dignity of the human being, religious freedom, freedom of expression, identity, culture, loneliness to point only the most evident.

Of course, I do not want to oversimplify. I am well aware that these challenges are linked and should not be separated in terms of solutions and remedies. I’m also very aware that the Church has been defending this for quite a while, at all levels, and above all through the authoritative voices of Pope Saint John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. What I want to point out by separating ‘globalization’ and ‘globalism’ is that global integration entails both an historical experience and a set of ideas and beliefs:

As a historical process globalization has indeed been wiping out national borders, continuously integrating national communities in what seems to be an unstoppable movement towards the creation of a global village (and it can be read as historical determinism);

As an ideational program globalism amounts to an ideology centered on the promise and vocation for everlasting progress.

Although they are different in nature, globalization and globalism have been reinforcing each other in creating what Pope Francis very aptly calls in Laudato Si (#78) “the modern myth of unlimited material progress”. Based in an unfounded narrative that became widely accepted,  the  myth establishes that in its movement and transformative action globalization is irreversible and, as such, an inescapable truth.

This has been indeed a very tempting myth intimately associated with modernity. Yet, experience has shown that globalization is neither an automatic historical process nor a ceaseless advancement towards global betterment. Again, please do not get me wrong. I am all in favor of free markets and free enterprise. Widely available data confirms that, since the onset of our century, and because of globalization, global inequality has declined markedly. The opening of national markets to trade, international capital and foreign investment, and the resultant global flows of technology, have been the engine of this economic rebalancing. Moreover, if the economies of developing countries such as China and India continue to converge with those of the developed world, global inequality will continue to fall for some time. Additionally, the proportion of the world’s population in absolute poverty is now lower than it has ever been (although the total numbers of those in destitution remain disturbingly high!). By promoting intense technological development, globalization has made communication and traveling much easier and cheaper, generating immeasurable potential  for people of different communities, cultures  and  religions  to know and understand one another. From this point of view,  globalization also played a pivotal role in diffusing knowledge throughout the world.

Moreover, by deepening international interdependence, globalization confronted national governments with the reality that power alone will not solve their problems, and that other soft capacities are required, thus transforming the nature of power itself (hard power vs. soft power). Globalization also brought fore to the world fundamental issues like the rights of women, children, and of all kinds of persecuted minorities, including religious ones. Finally, all these factors contributed to promote globally certain common public goods such as equality, human rights, justice and democracy.

However, notwithstanding these and  other  significant  and  advantageous  results, there were  profoundly  negative  and destabilizing effects from globalization too:

Even as global inequality has declined, inequality within individual countries has become more marked. Because skilled workers have secured the most benefits of this global process within national economies, the division between “haves” and “have nots” has amplified, widening the pay gap between them.

-PATRICK OKEDINACHI UTOMI

 

 


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