The following statement was released by the Lambeth Conference on Saturday morning August 8th.
Statement of Support for Nigeria Sponsor: Archbishop Justin Welby
We, the bishops of the worldwide Anglican Communion, called together by the Archbishop of Canterbury for the Lambeth Conference in 2022, from the provinces of the Anglican Communion, send our warm greetings and message of encouragement and support to the church and people of Nigeria.
We very much regret that the Province of the Church of Nigeria will not be with us. We pray that our Lord will make it possible for the differences that have prevented the Province of the Church of Nigeria in joining the rest of the Communion will be healed in His good time.
Nigeria is a country that is richly endowed with highly skilled human, natural, and mineral resources, a country with a huge contribution to make on the world stage.
The bishops are particularly grieved by the security, economic, religious and political challenges faced by Nigeria and Nigerians. Nigeria remains a regular prayer point for the prayers of bishops across the Communion.
Our Lord calls us to seek peace and pursue it. We humbly commit to continue to use our calling to do so in support for Nigeria and Nigerians. We firmly believe that Nigeria has the capacity to come out of the current challenges. Our hope, and the hope of all Nigerian Christians is in Jesus Christ, crucified and resurrected.
Responses to this statement came from the following people during the day:
Baroness Caroline Cox
The only tentative suggestions I have include
- Some indication of the scale of persecution: the tens of thousands of Christians (and some Muslims) massacred and the millions displaced.
- The need for the Church to pray – and the international community to advocate – for the Nigerian Government to fulfil its responsibilities to:
- a) protect its own people
- b) call perpetrators to account
in order to promote justice, peace and freedom.
I do think the international church needs to know the scale of the suffering of the Nigerian people. When I speak in churches here, there is widespread ignorance of the scale of persecution of Nigerian Christians.
‘When one part of the body of Christ suffers, we all suffer.’
But we need to know the scale of suffering in order to pray appropriately.
Ven Hassan John for the group of Pastors in Central Nigeria.
It is heart warming to note the support of the Bishops of the Worldwide Anglican Communion in its statement to the Church of Nigeria. The Churches, who have continuously worked with the Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion, are always appreciative of their continuous prayers for the persecuted Church in Nigeria.
For the many Churches and Pastors, across several denominations in Northern Nigeria, who have suffered tremendously, especially the families of those that have been killed and those who God has saved and have had to pay to be released from Fulani Islamist Militia groups rampaging the Middle Belt region of the country, the statement of support has been received with profound appreciation.
It is however sad to note that lives are still being lost and the pressure on the Church and Church leaders increases almost daily but the major solution to the persecution is deliberately ignored while the popular politically correct narrative which blames “climate change” and “fight for economic resource” is embraced. Voices of victims, indeed our voices are suppressed by those who think they have the solution to our problems.
We will ask for your continuous prayers but also ask for your advocacy and to be the voice of the persecuted, anywhere in the world, and help correct the narrative of politicians. We will continue to pursue peace. That is our Christian calling and we will continue to give love. Love always overcomes hatred. That is all we have to give. We thank you so much.
Ven Hassan John for the group of Pastors in Central Nigeria.
Archbishop Ben Kwashi of Jos, Nigeria:
The communion cannot now and only now be claiming support verbally and without action. For how long have Nigeria been in the situation that has only now come to the fore? What practical support has the communion shown? Sad to say in the same statement Nigeria is being subtly chastised. I am not sure that those who have risked their lives to come and pray and cry with us over the years are recognised for their efforts.
Bishop Zakke Nyam, Kano Nigeria.
Thank you so much for this statement in solidarity with Nigeria and Nigerians in these days of persecution and great tribulation. Personally I feel greatly encouraged and strengthened to know that there Christian brothers out there all over the world that are standing with us in prayer. My only slight regret is that the statement is coming a bit late because much havoc, pain and destruction has already been inflicted on the citizenry and particularly the Church. The Lord remains hope and strength at such times like the one we are passing through. PEACE.
Question to the Panel at the closing press conference of Lambeth 2022
Chris Sugden, for Church of England Newspaper: I have as a canon of the Church of Nigeria shared the statement of support with church leaders in Nigeria including an archbishop, a bishop and a representative of pastors of churches in areas affected by persecution who have emailed their responses ( above).
Some appreciation has been expressed for this heartwarming if belated statement. They note that since when one suffers all suffer, it would help to admit the scale of the suffering of tens of thousands of Christians and some Muslims so that people can pray appropriately, not least for the Nigerian Government to protect its people and call the perpetrators to account. They think that advocacy for this key solution to the horrendous persecution is needed to correct the politicians’ narrative that the conflict is over competition for reduced resources. They would also like recognition of the efforts of those who have supported them over the years.
Can the Archbishop of Canterbury expand further on this statement so far?
Archbishop Justin Welby:
I have twenty years experience as a mediator in over eighty trips to Nigeria. One of the most desperate parts of this appalling, now pan-national conflict is the deep sense of isolation. I have spoken very very frequently mentioning the thousands of deaths including in the House of Lords and on other very public occasions. I have tweeted and have been regularly in touch when there has been yet another dreadful massacre.
I entirely agree with what your contacts are saying about the level and extent of persecution. It is absolutely atrocious. It is appalling. In some places it is led by Jihadist groups particularly in the far North East by Iswar who have taken a much more leading role than Boko Haram from which they broke away. In the North West through banditry to a point that has become warlordism. So for example the the President of ?’s convoy was attacked very recently although he was not in it – it was his advance group- in Katsina in his own home state. The railway line from Abuja to Kaduna was blown up very recently. Further south someone wrote that “ I never go out in the morning without praying first with my wife knowing well that I may never return.”
A very senior person in Nigeria said publicly: “We are no longer a failing state, we are a failed state; can we avoid becoming a collapsed state?”
The people who are affected most by this level of anarchy in its strict sense of the word, are most of all the poorest and most vulnerable – whether it’s people in the Niger Delta whom I worked with and whom I am in regular contact with, up to the North East, the North West, in Jos, Kaduna, Maiduguri and many other places across the country it is an appalling, atrocious and terrifying situation. I would certainly echo what they said that with elections coming up next year, which is always a period of instability, it is absolutely unquestionable that the rival parties put aside their rivalry on issues of national security. That is what is indispensable. They must say, yes, we will argue about economics and all the other things, but on national security we are going to hold the perpetrators ( of the violence) to account. I hope also that they will prompt and prod other foreign governments to give them the technological aid and support that will enable their wildly overstretched army which is very tired to be more effective.
It is a very, very, very bad situation. I pray for them and my heart breaks looking at the appalling situation of the poorest and the most vulnerable in Nigeria.
Nigeria is a such a wonderful, extraordinary and marvelous country. I agree with the tenor of your question. What is needed is a great national effort by the governing elites to bring the situation into some form of good order so that free and fair elections can be held and a new Government elected which can be both decisive and energetic in its approach to both banditry and terrorism. I am not going to go into detail as to what the causes are and even if I talked for an hour I would still have to say “But it’s not as simple as that”. But thank you Chris very much.