President Muhammadu Buhari has called on Catholic bishops to keep speaking truth to power, but urged them to extend their message of change to violent non-state actors, saying some of them were propagating genuine course but with mindless brutality.
He spoke at the opening session of the 4th Plenary Assembly of the Reunion of Episcopal Conference of West Africa, RECOWA, held in Abuja yesterday.
Buhari, who was represented by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, noted that West Africa was passing through a season of considerable political, economic and social turmoil, and urged the bishops to play active roles in building brotherhood and sustainable peace.
He said: “Indeed, the Catholic Church and the Bishops Conference have established a reputation for speaking truth to power, in consonance with the highest prophetic traditions and by continuing its illustrious practice of inspiring social action by the lay faithful.
”Over the years, the Church has modeled profound approaches in challenging the impunity of some state actors and errant power.
“But my Lords, I believe the times also call for speaking to the growing number of violent non- state actors, some propagating genuine course but with mindless violence, often leading to the destruction of lives and property.
“I urge you not only to explore ways of strengthening the bonds of faith between your communities, but also of building bridges across every divide that threatens to fracture our nations.”
Speaking on the theme of the summit, ”Fratelli Tutti: Path to Build Brotherhood and Sustainable Peace in West Africa’, the President said peace would not reign in the region if it didn’t first reign in individual communities and countries.
To this end, Buhari said the Federal Government was committed to collaborating with the Church and all well-meaning actors in promoting peace and security.
“Our goals of unity and integration have always been thwarted not just by concerns of individual sovereignty of our nations but also by internal crisis and social conflicts in our nations and around the borders.
“Since 2017, there have been 12 military coups in Africa and half of them have occurred since 2020. Historically, in times like these, parochial prejudices are heightened and the fabric of cohesion becomes frayed as people retreat into ethnic, religious and other nativist camps.
‘In all of these, the ideal of an integrated peaceful and prosperous subregion seems almost impossible. It is my hope that you will conceptualize ways of bringing the full weight of the immense moral authority that you possess upon our nations and in the sub-region as a whole.
‘It is evident that we cannot create fraternity and harmony in West Africa without our faith communities.