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‘Culture of impunity’ over violence in Nigeria, says Archbishop of Jos

19 July 2019

Climate change cannot be used as an excuse for violence, says Archbishop Kwashi


The Archbishop of Jos, the Most Revd Benjamin Kwashi

The Archbishop of Jos, the Most Revd Benjamin Kwashi

RELIGION, not climate change, is the motive behind violence between Christians and Muslims in northern Nigeria, the Archbishop of Jos, Dr Benjamin Kwashi, has stated.

Dr Kwashi explained: “If there is climate change, does that give you a reason to start killing people in order to force people out of their land? Why not come peacefully and negotiate? There is sufficient land in Nigeria, without the need to shed blood.”

Clashes between Christian farmers and Fulani Muslim herdsmen have killed hundreds in recent years (News, 6 July 2018). They are, Dr Kwashi argues, part of an agenda to “wipe Christianity from the face of northern Nigeria”. Last year, the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, said that the violence was caused by “temporal” problems, not by religion (News, 30 November 2018).

In a new book, Neither Bomb Nor Bullet (Lion Hudson, £12.99), ghost-written by Andrew Boyd, Dr Kwashi alleges: “In northern Nigeria, if you are a Muslim and you kill a Christian, you’re most likely to go free. You can get away with murder — literally. There is a culture of impunity in Nigeria, and the government is either powerless or lacks the will to prevent the killing.”

Speaking last week, he said: “If you see the kinds of people that are being killed, no sane human being would accept this [that climate change is causing violence]. Children are slaughtered; literally, this is a killing of the poorest of the poor. They are being killed, and we’re still making an excuse that this is because of climate change?”

In the book, he writes: “I believe that the current system of governance in Nigeria gives Christians no hope beyond their trust in God. . .

“When the government fails to protect its citizens, it is, in effect, licensing untrained vigilantes to carry out extrajudicial justice, while the lawmakers, the military, and the police look on. This is what has happened in Nigeria.

“The effect of this is that children, old people, women, and unarmed civilians are being hacked to pieces in their beds. By refusing to restrain murderers, the government is forcing people to rise to defend themselves.”

He said last week that the situation was getting worse, but he had hope because of his faith in God. “If you look at the people who are being killed, these are people who have never done anything on earth, they’ve just wanted to live and eat.”

Dr Kwashi has been the subject of multiple attacks. In 2006, his wife, Gloria, was the subject of an attack that left her temporarily blinded and in intensive care (News, 2 November 2006).

Asked if he and his wife were fearful for their lives, he said: “We live with that fear every day, but we don’t let it control our lives. We are aware it could happen at any time.”

The couple have fostered hundreds of orphans in Jos, and they continue to look after dozens of children.

He said that they had thought about leaving Nigeria, and had been offered a way out at least twice. He explained, however: “If we left, what would happen to these children? Some of these children, some of these women, if we left — that would be the end.

“If we died, or were killed, that would be a different story. If we left, we would have betrayed the gospel we preached, and betrayed their trust in God and their trust in us.”

He said that one way in which the Church in Nigeria grew was through women and families, and that the work that women did should be highlighted.

“In Africa, unlike in the West, women are the people who hold the home front. They look after children, they cook, they care, they go to farms, they see what’s happening in the family. I see that a lot in Gloria, and, honestly, I don’t know how I could appreciate her, I pray to her a lot. . . The women are the most powerful sex, which we need to acknowledge and appreciate.

“Every time Gloria goes out, I’m afraid she’s going to bring liabilities to me, and she always does. If she does that in a week, and I have five women that we’ve been able to reach out to, we’re going to have a increase in the Church of 30 people.

“Each woman is going to bring all her children, and her household. That’s how the Church grows — women are the instruments of church growth.”

Dr Kwashi is also general secretary of GAFCON, a post he took on this year. He described it as a “tough job”.

In his book, he writes: “I do not envisage a split with the Anglican Church. Not in my time. I think all brothers and sisters who hold on to scripture will be able to do so within the Anglican Communion.

“I have hope in the present Archbishop of Canterbury. I know him. If Justin Welby had been in post a decade ago, perhaps the churches might not have gone this far.”

He confirmed last week, however, that he would not be attending the Lambeth Conference next year. He said: “I wish I could. . . I‘m hoping that things will change after Lambeth 2020, so that we can gather again, and sit at the table, and discuss the issues around the deliverance for the Kingdom of God.”

In the book, he describes how he and other African bishops were taken aback at the treatment they received at Lambeth 1998, where one Western bishop described Africa’s Christianity as “only one step up from witchcraft”. Dr Kwashi writes: “The attitudes we encountered bordered on racism.”

After the Conference passed Resolution 1.10, which upheld marriage as an act between a man and a woman, he recounts: “One of our American brothers later sniped that we Africans had been bought off by chicken wings to vote for this.”

He writes that he does not hate homosexuality, as he intervened to save 15 homosexuals who were sentenced to death in Bauchi State under Islamic law. He clearly argues, however, that homosexuality is a sin.

“God makes it clear that he abhors sin and every type of evil. If we were to play that down, if we were to sanctify every cultural norm, can you imagine what Nigeria would quickly become? It is the gospel, not human nature, that is the hope of our nation.”

He writes: “To some of the Anglican bishops, it seemed that their African brothers were out of touch. But from where we stood, facing out daily matters of life and death, it felt the other way round. Our brothers in the West appeared indifferent and unaware.”

Last week, Dr Kwashi said: “My hope for GAFCON is that the day will come in my lifetime when the Anglican Church will come to its roots in upholding the biblical foundations of our faith, the authority of scripture; and that we not only say so, but we actually do live it.

“I pray that the Anglican Communion will restore itself to the mission of the gospel, because only in the mission will there be true revival, even in England. It’s a revival that will restore social justice.”

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