Matthew Kukah, the Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, has charged church leaders across Africa to be fearless in the quest for justice irrespective of the risks involved.
According to the cleric, reconciliation and peace will not be achieved by priests merely preaching on the altar or asking politicians to be of good conduct, but it requires leaders to step out of their comfort zone, guide their followers in active politics and identify with institutions that can deliver the needed reconciliation.
He made the call on Thursday while delivering the keynote address during a virtual conference organised by the Justice and Peace Commission of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC).
He said: “The Church cannot simply assume that reconciliation, justice and peace are going to be largely the result of our endless episcopal statements, calling on people to be of good behaviour, moral exhortation on our politicians and so on. It requires more than that.
“I think the Catholic Church must go beyond the point of making a case of being prophetic.
“Prophecy is not necessarily what we think about saying what is likely to happen in future. Prophecy is about advising the present coherently and projecting what the future might be.
“The Church must identify institutions that deal with reconciliation, justice and peace, and deploy quality manpower to them.
“We have to identify those institutions that are necessary if we are going to be able to fight for justice and if we are going to deal with issues of reconciliation. These issues relate to the quality of manpower that is manning our Legislatures. It is important for the Church to have the manpower as it helps in making good decisions.
“As Catholics, the mistake we make is that because of lack of interest in politics and because of our backseat position we wait until a law, for example on abortion, has been made then we start running up and down.”
The cleric further said that the church will continue to suffer if nothing is done in integrating itself with national politics.
He added: “If the Church does not identify the legislature as a major platform for the guarantee of justice and law, and if we are not present when the laws are being made, we will continue to suffer the consequences.
“Who is in our Judiciary? These are the platforms for advocacy in terms of the quality of justice that citizens have to live with.
“So, we must work with greater speed to reposition the Church so that we can provide our moral compass, and let our people understand how politics ought to be played.
“In fighting for justice, Church leaders need to be much bolder when the stakes are high.
“Beyond the comforts of our own Cathedrals and our own pastoral responsibilities around us, there is an urgent need for us to become a bit more ambitious.
“Every Church leader must measure what they are doing, not by the presence of those in power and how they feel comfortable with you, but let them know that it is your obligation to tell them what is best for you and the people.”
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