Christians launch political organization in Nigeria

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Christians launch political organization in

LAGOS, 7 May 2000 (Newsroom) – The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) launched a new political organization last week with the aim of more effectively mobilizing Christians to act in public affairs.

Roman Catholic Archbishop John Onaiyeka of Abuja announced the creation of the Christian Social Movement (CSM) in Lagos on Thursday, asserting that there is a desperate need for Christians to get more involved in politics in Nigeria.

Even when Christians are elected to political office, Onaiyekan said, too many behave as if they are ashamed of being recognized as such and do not act according to the tenets of their faith. “The result, of course, is that the Christian spirit is not sufficiently felt in the forums where major decisions about the welfare of the nation are taken,” the CAN vice president said.

There have been similar attempts in the past to mobilize Christians to get active in politics through the formation of groups like the Eclectic Movement of Nigeria (EMN) and Nigerian Renaissance Movement (NRM). EMN was founded by a Pentecostal minister, the Rev. Moses Iloh, in Lagos. He has been particularly active in organizing meetings for Christians to discuss national issues.

“Christians cannot afford to abandon politics to unbelievers and keep complaining of bad governments,” Iloh said during the inaugural meeting of his group last year.

Out of 10 heads of governments who have governed the country since independence in 1960 only three have been Christians. Nigeria is a secular country of about 120 million people with nearly even numbers of Christians and Muslims.

Nigeria’s current president, Olusegun Obasanjo, describes himself as a born-again Christian. Obasanjo has been criticized by many Christians for not acting to stop the adoption of Sharia penal law in the country’s northern states, where most of Nigeria’s Muslims live. Nigeria’s constitution permits the application of Sharia in domestic matters such as marriage, inheritance, and adoption, but not in criminal law. Islamic penal law permits flogging, amputation, and beheading for some crimes.

Obasanjo did not intervene in the Sharia controversy until the February riot in Kaduna in which hundreds of people were killed and many churches, mosques, homes, and shops were destroyed. Northern governors have twice agreed to halt implementation of Sharia, most recently last week.

Stressing the need for Christians to be involved in politics, Onaiyekan noted that theocratic political ideology is not a monopoly of Islam.

“Even today, there are still many countries, including some modern democracies, which claim to be officially Christian,” he said. “Examples are Britain, Italy, and Spain. We have to constantly enlighten our people about this, so that they will know that if we do not insist today on a Christian state in Nigeria, it is not because we have no historical precedents, nor would such a call be contrary to our Christian faith.”

The chairman of the CSM Steering Committee, Solomon Asemota, a lawyer, said that while politicians in the West listen and act more often according to the wishes of the people, Nigerian politicians act based on selfish interests. “The Christian Social Movement will force them to listen, and to act according to the common good of society,” he said.

Copyright © 2000 Newsroom.
Used with permission.

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