The Catholic Bishops Conference of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province, weekend, rose from their first plenary meeting for the year in Owerri, condemning what they called “manipulative predictions” and warning against unfounded rumours.
The position of the bishops was made public in a pastoral statement, captioned “Trusting in God in these trying times,” signed by the President and Secretary of Conference, Archbishop Anthony Obinna, and Most Rev. Augustine Ukwuoma, respectively and made available to Vanguard in Owerri.
“In these trying times of uncertainty, confusion, anxiety, and tension in Nigeria and Imo State, in particular, we, the Bishops of the Province, deeply feel the concerns, questions and frustrations that agitate the minds of our people,” the clerics said.
While recalling that they fervently prayed for credible and peaceful general election in the country, the bishops, however, expressed regret that the painful reverberations of a good number of those elections have not died down in Imo State and other states.
“The recent judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria on the last gubernatorial election in the state, has continued to elicit varied reactions from different segments of the state and even beyond,” the Catholic Bishops said.
The statement further read: “As people of faith, who put their trust in God’s providence, even in the most difficult circumstances of life, we urge our people not to take laws into their lives; to be law-abiding; not to make inflammatory statements and spread unfounded rumours that could create more bad blood, and not to allow our state to be divided along the lines that will only be damaging to our corporate unity as a people.”
The Catholic Bishops maintained that the issues in question are about equity, the civic rights of the people to elect their leaders, as well as good governance, which guarantees their rights, freedom and welfare,” stressing that “we are one people, and we must work together for the growth and progress of our state.”
They warned pastors of souls to “guard against the abuse of the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist, against the abuse of the altar, and against the abuse of the pulpit and the church, for predictions that can endanger the faith of the people, especially in the so-called Adoration centre.”
“In some of our communities, armed gangs and cult groups are engaging in intimidation and disruption of community life and destruction of properties.
“The violence, brutality, and callousness with which people are abducted, maimed, and even killed, have assumed a frightening dimension.
“Many have been forced out of their ancestral homes and reduced to the status of Internally Displaced Persons.
“We call on relevant government agencies and community leaders, as well as ordinary citizens to feel concerned and take actions against this unfortunate state of insecurity.
“We challenge the government, no matter the party affiliation, to recognize and work for the security of the citizens of our states and lands.”