By Tony Obiechina, Abuja
Association of Papal Knights and Medalists has bemoaned the present wave of insecurity especially insurgency and kidnapping saying it has devastating effects on the survival of Christianity in the country.
The association made the declaration at its 11th annual national conference with the theme “Survival of Christianity in Contemporary Nigeria”, held in Abuja at the weekend.
Speaking, the national president of the association Sir Patrick Ikemefuna said the theme of the conference is very relevant as Christianity in Nigeria is facing a lot of challenges which include economic, political, ethnic, social or religious.
Ikemefuna said “Our country Nigeria is presently in a state where it seems we are not guided by laws. There are high rate of poverty, hunger, unemployment and corruption, resulting in armed robbery, kidnapping and killings; there is no electricity, no roads, no water and various infrastructures are collapsing.
Lamenting attacks on Christians and their places of worship, Ikemefuna said, “the Christians on the other hand are being targeted are attacks and killings. In the early days of Boko Haram, Christians and their churches were the target. Christians were kidnapped in their homes while churches were bombed and destroyed”.
“After about five years, some of the Chibok girls are yet to return. Miss Leah Sharibu is still in the hands of her captors. The Fulani Herdsmen attacked predominantly the Christian part of the north-central especially Benue State.
“Priest and their parishioners were murdered in their churches. Kidnapping of pastors and priests has now become the order of the day. We are now in the days of pornography, gay, same-sex union, lesbianism, transgenic personalities. The recent comprehensive sexual curriculum being pushed into the curriculum of public schools is an attack on Christians values”.
The keynote speaker, a former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sir Martin Uhomoibhi said the survival of the church in Nigeria is primarily the responsibility of the knights in ensuring that the faith received at baptism is passed on from generation to generation forever.
Quoting from psalm 127:1, Uhomoibhi said the efforts of anyone will be futile without God and no human being will amount to anything without God.
He said “the survival of Christianity does not depend on the knights or on their might but it has been ordained by God and none can battle for God as God is capable of fighting His own battle and He will protect His church. If need be, He can call His angels from on high to defend His church or can command stones to rise in defense of the church. God has made his church invincible and indestructible”.
“With kidnappers sprawling about, looking for people to devour, herdsmen are wreaking havoc unrestrained despite the threat that Boko haram has posed for Nigerians. In the face of all this brigandage, the church cannot but be threatened”.
He lamented situations where the church and its symbols have been destroyed. He expressed worry about kidnapping of priests and pastors who are often kidnapped for who they are. He cited the case of two reverend fathers and some parishioners in a remote village in Benue State, were murdered in cold blood during a mass which was not completed.
Speaking on the continuous captivity of Miss Leah Sharibu, he said “she has not been released because of her Christian faith and her refusal to renounce her faith. He said such strong display of faith b the young Leah is a challenge to all Christians”
Earlier in a goodwill message, the Emeritus Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan said Papal knights are chosen by recognition and not by lobbying. He said the papal knights are given prominent status and are expected to be models of the values of Christians and catholic faith.
He said the recognition is beyond being a Catholic “though papal knights are recognized by the Pope, non-Catholics are also given such recognition.
“A case in sight is a very good Muslim minister who had a catholic permanent secretary and both of them were recommended for the award of papal knights. A Jew was also recognized as a knight by Pope Benedict
He commended the association for its ability to coordinate their activities and providing mutual support in carrying out their duties in line with the objectives of the papal knighthood.
Speaking in an interview with journalists shortly after the Holy Mass to commemorate the conference, Onaiyekan said “the most important thing with the catholic church is that it promotes the good running of the church. The church is not for the purpose of its members alone but that Jesus put them in the church to send them out to preach the news of the gospel to the whole world”.
He lamented the situation where some Christian leaders are more interested in gathering members for themselves.
The Archbishop said “many Christians misinterpret the great commission in Matthew 28:18-20 to mean go into the world and make members for themselves. The good news must be spread to everybody to enable men of good will to hear it and take from it”.
Also speaking, a papal knight and the Minister of Women Affairs DAME Pauline Talen said knights have been playing the role of protecting the church to the best of their abilities while also praying for more grace to stand for the church and for Christ.
According to her, it is the responsibility of the knights to discuss emerging issues affecting the church.