“Voices of victims, indeed our voices are suppressed by those who think they have the solution to our problems.”
- Rev. Hassan John
This week, the 2022 Lambeth Conference, the once-a-decade gathering of bishops of the Anglican Communion from around the world, came to an end. Among the Conference’s concluding statements issued on 8 August was a “statement of support for Nigeria,” sponsored by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.
However, several Nigerian Christian leaders and religious freedom activists from abroad did not think the Conference’s statement went far enough. (Due to disagreements about the Anglican Church’s handling of issues relating to human sexuality, archbishops from Nigeria, Rwanda, and Uganda did not attend this year’s conference.)
Dr. John Eibner, the president of Christian Solidarity International, commented that the statement was “not commensurate with the catastrophic extent of the human suffering and violent persecution of Christians" in Nigeria, and cited James 2:20: “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead.”
Baroness Caroline Cox, president of the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust, commented that the Church should do more to communicate “the scale of persecution of Nigerian Christians.”
Archbishop Ben Kwashi of Jos, a city that has been a major center of anti-Christian and religious violence, asked pointedly, "What practical support has the communion shown?”
The Lambeth Conference’s full statement, and the statements from Eibner, Cox, Archbishop Kwashi, Bishop Zakke Nyam of Kano, and Reverend Hassan John, are reproduced below.
8 August 2022
We, the bishops of the worldwide Anglican Communion, called together by the Archbishop of Canterbury for the Lambeth Conference in 2022, from the provinces of the Anglican Communion, send our warm greetings and message of encouragement and support to the church and people of Nigeria.
We very much regret that the Province of the Church of Nigeria will not be with us. We pray that our Lord will make it possible for the differences that have prevented the Province of the Church of Nigeria in joining the rest of the Communion will be healed in His good time.
Nigeria is a country that is richly endowed with highly skilled human, natural, and mineral resources, a country with a huge contribution to make on the world stage.
The bishops are particularly grieved by the security, economic, religious and political challenges faced by Nigeria and Nigerians. Nigeria remains a regular prayer point for the prayers of bishops across the Communion.
Our Lord calls us to seek peace and pursue it. We humbly commit to continue to use our calling to do so in support for Nigeria and Nigerians. We firmly believe that Nigeria has the capacity to come out of the current challenges. Our hope, and the hope of all Nigerian Christians is in Jesus Christ, crucified and resurrected.
As reported by Chris Sugden of the Church of England Newspaper, responses to this statement came from the following people during the day:
Baroness Caroline Cox
The statement would be stronger if it included:
1. Some indication of the scale of persecution: the tens of thousands of Christians (and many Muslims) massacred and the millions displaced.
2. The need for the Church to pray – and the international community to advocate – for the Nigerian Government to fulfil its responsibilities to:
a) protect its own people
b) call perpetrators to account in order to promote justice, peace and freedom.
I do think the international church needs to know the scale of the suffering of the Nigerian people. When I speak in churches here, there is widespread ignorance of the scale of persecution of Nigerian Christians.
‘When one part of the body of Christ suffers, we all suffer.’
But we need to know the scale of suffering in order to pray appropriately.
Reverend Hassan John, for the group of Pastors in Central Nigeria
It is heart-warming to note the support of the Bishops of the Worldwide Anglican Communion in its statement to the Church of Nigeria. The Churches, who have continuously worked with the Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion, are always appreciative of their continuous prayers for the persecuted Church in Nigeria.
For the many Churches and Pastors, across several denominations in Northern Nigeria, who have suffered tremendously, especially the families of those that have been killed and those who God has saved and have had to pay to be released from Fulani Islamist Militia groups rampaging the Middle Belt region of the country, the statement of support has been received with profound appreciation.
It is however sad to note that lives are still being lost and the pressure on the Church and Church leaders increases almost daily but the major solution to the persecution is deliberately ignored while the popular politically correct narrative which blames “climate change” and "fight for economic resources” is embraced. Voices of victims, indeed our voices are suppressed by those who think they have the solution to our problems.
We will ask for your continuous prayers but also ask for your advocacy and to be the voice of the persecuted, anywhere in the world, and help correct the narrative of politicians. We will continue to pursue peace. That is our Christian calling and we will continue to give love. Love always overcomes hatred. That is all we have to give. We thank you so much.
Archbishop Ben Kwashi of Jos, Nigeria
The communion cannot now and only now be claiming support verbally and without action. For how long has Nigeria been in the situation that has only now come to the fore? What practical support has the communion shown? Sad to say in the same statement Nigeria is being subtly chastised. I am not sure that those who have risked their lives to come and pray and cry with us over the years are recognised for their efforts.
Bishop Zakke Nyam, Kano Nigeria.
Thank you so much for this statement in solidarity with Nigeria and Nigerians in these days of persecution and great tribulation. Personally I feel greatly encouraged and strengthened to know that there Christian brothers out there all over the world that are standing with us in prayer. My only slight regret is that the statement is coming a bit late because much havoc, pain and destruction has already been inflicted on the citizenry and particularly the Church. The Lord remains hope and strength at such times like the one we are passing through. PEACE.
On 10 August, CSI's John Eibner added his own comment:
Dr. John Eibner, president, Christian Solidarity International
10 August 2022
The Lambeth Conference’s pledge of regular prayer for Nigeria and its expression of confidence in Nigeria’s ability to emerge from “current challenges” are very touching. But such pious sentiments are not commensurate with the catastrophic extent of the human suffering and violent persecution of Christians, especially the religious cleansing of Christians in Nigeria’s Middle Belt. Seriousness of purpose would have been demonstrated by a public appeal from the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Conference urging every parish belonging to the Communion to pray at every Sunday service for the victims of sectarian violence in Nigeria, and elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa where Islamist terror groups also killing, raping, and enslaving. The Conference might also have served notice that it would work to place the crisis facing Nigerian Christians on the agenda of the forthcoming Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Karlsruhe. While the Archbishop of Canterbury did stress at a press conference that the “current challenges” amount to a “very, very, very bad situation”, he gave no indication that the Anglican communion would act to demonstrate solidarity with the Christians and other victims of sectarian violence. The Province of the Church in Nigeria did not participate in the Lambeth Conference for doctrinal reasons. The insensitivity of the Conference to the severe and widespread violent persecution of Nigerian Christians will not hasten its return. “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead”. (James 2:20)