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Archbishop Welby sets out Nigeria’s ‘vocation to greatness’ during interfaith peace conference

26 October 2018

He warned Nigeria’s political and religious leaders that there are ‘no excuses’ before God


A woman walks past campaign posters in Abuja, Nigeria, near the People’s Democratic Party headquarters, earlier this month

A woman walks past campaign posters in Abuja, Nigeria, near the People’s Democratic Party headquarters, earlier this month

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has warned Nigeria’s political and religious leaders that “before God there are no deceptions, no excuses” in a speech in which he outlined the country’s “vocation to greatness”.

Addressing a pre-election interfaith peace conference in the capital city of Abuja last week, Archbishop Welby argued that: “Where politicians fail the people in the performance of their elected duties, religious leaders should advise the politicians privately. If their advice is not heeded, they must exercise their public prophetic role and speak truth to power.

“We must not condone the wrong deeds of public officials just because they belong to our churches or mosques.”

A series of primaries are due to be held between now and elections in February. The incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari, will face opposition from Atiku Abubakar, who was Vice-President to a former President, Olusegun Obasanjo.

Earlier this year, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, the Rt Revd Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, said that, under the previous administration, “we know of senior Christian leaders who were aware of the corruption in that country, and still they bribed people and spoke to their members to vote for a corrupt Christian,” (Features, 31 August).

“Let me speak bluntly as an Archbishop,” Archbishop Welby told the gathering. “God knows our true deeds, and we will all face the judgement of God: Muslim and Christian, African Traditional Religion, or even atheist. Before God there are no deceptions, no excuses.”

The speech evinced deep affection for the country, including a passage in which he imagined a conversation held between a father and son in 2068, in which Nigeria held a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

“Nigeria is the giant of the continent and is becoming a giant of the world,” he said. “There is an energy in this country which can transform not only this nation but the whole continent, and far beyond. . . Nigeria’s vocation is to greatness. Its geographical position, population, potential wealth, gifted people, and ancient history all point to that call.

“It should emerge as a regional and then world leader in the multi-polar world of the 21st century — and do it by its virtues, its overcoming of its vices, its generosity, and its hope.”

Speaking amid spikes in sectarian violence (News, 6 July), he warned that “Attacks cannot be treated with impunity. Truth needs telling, and arriving at the truth that is to be told is a complex process. . . When I hear of Nigeria’s difficulties and problems, whether it be terrorism, or economic hardship, or the deaths of farmers — too often Christian farmers — I am deeply distressed. I mourn as for a member of my family.”

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