Abuja (Agenzia Fides) - "The population is between two fires: the abuses of politicians, military and law enforcement, on the one hand, the violence and looting of Fulani herdsmen and other bandits, on the other". This is what is denounced in the pastoral letter published by the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Owerri (capital of the state of Imo), in the south-east of Nigeria, which includes, in addition to the metropolitan archdiocese of Owerri, the suffragan dioceses of Aba, Ahiara, Okigwe, Orlu and Umuahia (capital of the Federated State of Abia).
"The population is suffering unbearable threats from some of our political leaders and even security officers. The situation is aggravated by the predation carried out by Fulani herdsmen and other bandits", reads the pastoral letter, entitled "Be strong! Do not be afraid!".
"Every day we hear heartrending stories of kidnapping, rape, mutilation, extortion, land grabbing, killing and destruction of people's livelihoods. We continue to hope in vain that elected public officials and security officers protect our citizens as envisaged and sanctioned by the Constitution", says the document, sent to Agenzia Fides.
Another alarming situation is the strong youth unemployment that makes "many young people try to make money quickly and without scruples, even at the cost of their lives, instead of looking for creative, innovative and profitable jobs".
The Bishops urge the faithful to "remain steadfast in faith and to trust God"; but they warn that "the open and friendly disposition of Christians must not be abused or taken for granted". "The Nigerian government and its leaders must assume the constitutional obligation to protect and defend every Nigerian citizen regardless of his religious or ethnic background". Otherwise, Nigeria's sense of national unity becomes meaningless and useless. Where the government fails to protect and defend the people, citizens will be forced to defend themselves".
The message urges Christians to pray and remain vigilant, "in promoting the Christian vision in order to counter the brutal ideology of hatred, wickedness and violence". A special day of prayer for peace in Nigeria will be held tomorrow in the Dioceses concerned. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 29/8/2019)