The Church in the Diocese of Jalingo in Nigeria’s Taraba state has committed to revamp gray areas such as holistic formation in schools, the role of the laity in politics and unity amid security challenges in the state in furtherance of the mission of Christ.
This disclosure was contained in a communique issued at the end of the diocese’s 20th general assembly held at St. Charles Borromeo Pastoral Centre, Shavon, Jalingo, from March 28 to April 1.
The document — co-signed by Bishop Charles Hammawa of Jalingo and diocesan chancellor Father Eugene Batare — highlighted major issues around the theme of the assembly, “Catholic Action and Our Task of Building Jalingo Diocese.”
On formation in schools, the communique noted that “holistic formation seeks to address the emotional, social, ethical and academic needs of students. This underscores the fact that education should not only be focused on academics.” It reiterated that lack of moral guidance has made academics mislead “many Nigerian youth into cybercrimes, advance fee fraud and other related crimes.”
Citing the message of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria at the end of their second plenary meeting at the Holy Ghost Cathedral, Ogui, Enugu state, from Aug. 19-27, 2021, which emphasized the ethical dimension of education, the statement affirmed that:
“We call on the government, religious bodies, private bodies and individuals who run schools to make as part of the goals of education, the inculcation of moral values, the sense of social justice, care for the earth, tolerance of people of other tribes, adherence of other religions and respect for the dignity of the human person. We condemn every form of examination malpractice in schools and encourage the inculcation of the culture of hard work in our youth.”
“Catholics and indeed Christians are urged to actively participate in politics as a way of contributing their quota to good governance”
The Church also lamented that “the incessant strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is causing so much damage to the country’s university educational system” and called “on the federal government, as a matter of urgency, to put an end to the ongoing ASUU strike for the sake of the future of this country.”
Although Nigeria returned to democracy 23 years ago, participants observed that the country has not enjoyed the so-called dividends of democracy.
“Catholics and indeed Christians are urged to actively participate in politics as a way of contributing their quota to good governance. If the conception that ‘politics is a dirty game’ is anything to contemplate, then it is even appropriate that Christians go into it to change the game from being dirty to being clean,” the statement said.
It challenged members of the laity not to forget that “our mission is to bear fruits that will last” (John 15:16) so that “God will be glorified in our actions” (Matthew 5:16) even as it urged “Christians to be card-carrying members of political parties, seek elective positions, obtain voter cards and go out consciously to exercise their franchise so as to add their Christian values to change the narrative for a better Nigeria.”
As a matter of importance, the diocese encouraged “the Independent National Electoral Commission to be fair and just in the registration of voters.” While urging the electoral umpire and all those involved in monitoring the polls to be transparent in the 2023 elections, they insisted: “In strong terms, [we] condemn political violence and discourage the youth from being used as political thugs.”
Reacting to the security situation in the state, the Church decried that for many years Taraba has suffered various crises leading to the loss of lives and livelihoods. While acknowledging the efforts of various stakeholders like the government and traditional leaders in nipping security challenges across the state in the bud, the diocese maintained: “We encourage the government, both federal and state, to do more as the challenges of insecurity are far from being over.”
“We call on Tarabans not to add to the bleeding wounds of insecurity, by putting a stop to tribal, religious and political violence”
The synod urged Tarabans to collaborate with government and security agencies to curb the menace of insecurity.
“We call on Tarabans not to add to the bleeding wounds of insecurity, by putting a stop to tribal, religious and political violence. We must be united in this course. Existing acrimonies should be healed by forgiveness. Fraternal and harmonious living should be embraced for peace to reign,” the message further read.
The bishop, priests, religious and lay faithful noted that despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions placed by the government, the Lord has been faithful to Jalingo since the last general assembly held in 2019.
As a major achievement, the diocese commissioned the Our Lady Queen of Peace Hospital, Shavon, to provide qualitative and affordable health care for all Tarabans irrespective of tribe and religion.
They seized the opportunity to thank God for the success of the 2020 silver jubilee celebration while pledging to work for harmony and peace in Taraba state and the country at large.