The Bishops of West Africa, under the auspices of RECOWA-CERAO have assured Nigerian and other African governments and politicians that they have no intention of usurping the powers of governments or replacing politicians.
In a pastoral message at the end of the third plenary assembly held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, recently, the bishops, however, said they have a prophetic responsibility to promote good governance, the rule of law and transparent elections.
RECOWA-CERAO is an association of West African Bishops from the 11 Episcopal Conferences which comprises 16 countries: The Republic of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Gambia and Togo.
“With you and for you, we pray that the privileges and pleasant aspects of power do not dominate your hearts, but that you fulfil your responsibility in a spirit of service, in the manner of Jesus Christ, who came not to be served but to serve and give his life as ransom for the multitude. Without wishing to take your place, your mission being of a different nature, the Church, however, stands by your side. With you, she wants to work to promote peaceful nations and communities more united around the new values of the Kingdom that transcends ethnic and geographical barriers.
“With governments, she wants to work together to promote good governance, the rule of law, transparent elections, smooth conduct of the elections, respect for the national constitution and the election results,” the bishops said in a message signed by Nigerian Coadjutor Archbishop of Abuja and Apostolic Administrator of Jos, Ignatius Kaigama, who is also the president of RECOWA-CERAO.
The bishops urged their brother-bishops, in Africa, priests and all religious leaders to cultivate credible lifestyles that will be a sign of hope for the faithful
To be a sign of hope, Church leaders need to be “credible pastors, witnesses who proclaim the gospel not only in words but also and above all in the witness of their own lives. The Church in Africa cannot be the sign of hope she wants to be if those who animate and represent her are not credible. We call for an awareness of what pastors are called to be, of the trust that Christ placed in them, as “salt of the earth and light of the world,” the bishops said.
There has been an increased spate of terrorist attacks and intercommunal violence in Africa’s Sahel region, particularly in West Africa.
“The paradox of our region with the development of new forms of fundamentalism, sources of blind violence, which sow terror and destabilise our nations call us to question. Can we still speak of holy war? In the name of which God and which religion can one still kill human beings and moreover innocent persons who are only asking to be alive?” read the message.
The bishops want West African governments to do more in combatting terrorism; to work together and protect lives.
To the young people of Africa, the bishops added, “You represent the present and the future of Africa, which must struggle with all resources for the dignity and happiness of her sons and daughters. In this context, we cannot be silent about the phenomenon of migration of young Africans to Europe. Our hearts as pastors and fathers suffer at the sight of these boats overloaded with young people, women and children, which are destroyed in the waves of the Mediterranean.
“Certainly, we understand your thirst for happiness and well-being that your countries do not offer you. Unemployment, misery, poverty remain evils that humiliate and revolt. However, they are not enough for you to sacrifice yourselves by taking such dangerous paths and to destinations where happiness seems to escape those who live in these places that you so desire to reach.
Continuing, they affirmed: “God did not strip Africa. On the contrary, He has provided her with so much human and natural resources that it can offer all her children what they need. That is why we call for a more just international order so that with the goods of the earth belonging to all, we arrive at a better distribution of the resources of the world, a more just remuneration of the efforts of each one, that the riches of our countries benefit everyone.”