THE Archbishop of Canterbury has described the Anglican Church in Nigeria as an "extraordinary powerhouse", in a wide-ranging interview on the BBC about the West African nation.
The Archbishop said that he was optimistic about the future of Nigeria, despite the frequent attacks on Christians in some parts of the country; and hailed the Church of Nigeria as one of the institutions that had held the nation together.
Archbishop Welby first visited Nigeria in 1978, while working in the oil industry, and has frequently returned for development and reconciliation projects. He said: "My own instinct now, with well over 30 years of working there - and seeing it in the business area, as well - is that the extraordinary talents of its people, the remarkable determination of many of its institutions; above all, its faith institutions - the Anglican Church an extraordinary powerhouse there - are capable of overcoming these difficulties."
North-eastern Nigeria had seen violence against both Christians and the Church from the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, the Archbishop said. But he insisted that this was a problem that did not affect the rest of the country.
"Any area where there's war and killing is an absolute tragedy. And the attacks on the Christian population there are very severe; the attacks on Muslim leaders are very severe; and on government figures. But it is not holding back thesouth. If you look at most of Nigeria, the south of Nigeria in particular, as an independent country, it is growing at a rate that defies description."
His contacts were telling him that the future was bright, he said. "The churches are suffering, but are determined; they're full of faith; and so is Jesus Christ."