Bishop Mathew Kukah’s 2022 Easter Message – Must Read

1: Hello brothers and sisters in Christ, men and women of goodwill everywhere, I send you hearty greetings and felicitations as we celebrate the risen Christ. Easter is here again. For all Christians, Easter is a metaphor for our lives as individuals, families, communities or nations. Easter is a metaphor for how shame, scandal, powerlessness, weakness, and opprobrium suddenly transform into glory, honour, pre-eminence, laudation and applause. It is a fulfilment of what the Master himself had foretold when He said, ‘Unless a grain of wheat falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain, but if it dies, it bears much fruit’ (Jn. 12: 24). And the Psalmist had said, ‘Those who sow in tears will sing when they reap.’ (Ps. 126:5).

2: The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus are central to the Christian faith and yet, as St Paul said, ‘We preach Christ crucified, a scandal to the Jews and nonsense to the Gentiles’ (1 Cor. 1: 23). St Paul continues: ‘What seems to be God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength’ (1 Cor. 1:25). Without the claims of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, millions of people would be Christian today. As with the times of Jesus, the very idea is preposterous and incomprehensible yet St. Paul still insists that ‘If Christ has not been raised, then our faith is a delusion and we are still in our sins’ (1 Cor. 15:17). It is faith in the resurrection of Christ that inspires us Christians to hold firmly to the fact that, like the people of Israel, our dry bones shall rise again (Ez. 37: 11).

3: Our dear country, Nigeria, still totters and wobbles as we screech towards a dangerous and avoidable canyon of dry bones. Nonetheless, we still cling to hope, a hope in the resurrected Christ, knowing as St. Paul; said, ‘this hope does not disappoint us’ (Rm.5:5). Nigerians can no longer recognise their country which has been battered and buffeted by men and women from the dark womb of time. It is no longer necessary to ask how we got here. The real challenge is how to find the slippery rungs on the ladder of ascent so we can climb out. Yet, we ask, ascend to where? For us as Christians, ascent is to the loving embrace of the resurrected Christ who is Lord of history.

4: One would be tempted to ask, what is there to say about our tragic situation today that has not been said? Who is there to speak that has not spoken? Like the friends of Job, we stare at an imponderable tragedy as the nation unravels from all sides. The government has slid into hibernation mode. It is hard to know whether the problem is that those in power do not hear, see, feel, know, or just don’t care. Either way, from this crossroad, we must make a choice, to go forward, turn left or right or return home. None of these choices are easy, yet, guided by the light of the risen Christ, we can reclaim our country from its impending slide to anarchy.

5: The greatest challenge now is how to begin a process of reconstructing our nation hoping that we can hang on and survive the 2023 elections. The real challenge before us now is to look beyond politics and face the challenge of forming character and faith in our country. Here, leaders of religion, Christianity and Islam, need to truthfully face the role of religion in the survival of our country. The Nigerian Constitution has very clearly delineated the fine boundaries between religion and politics. Yet many politicians continue to behave as if they are presiding over both the political and the spiritual realms in their states rather than governing in a Democracy.

6: This conflict between Caesar and God is inbuilt in faith and is part of world history. Many religious leaders often measure their power by how close they are to Caesar, yet Caesar’s embrace is often full of thorns. The challenge is for the religious leader to know that both Caesar and those he represents are answerable to God who created them. The welfare of citizens constitutes the cornerstone for measuring the legitimacy of any political leader. As such, religious leaders must focus more on the issues of welfare, safety and security of ordinary citizens. They must raise their voice when these rights are being trampled upon. A leader must know when to call Caesar a fox and not a horse (Lk. 13:32).

7: The greatest challenge for Nigeria is not even the 2023 elections. It is the prospects for the reconciliation of our people. Here, the Buhari administration sadly has divided our people on the basis of ethnicity, religion, and region, in a way that we have never witnessed in our history. This carefully choreographed agenda has made Nigerians vulnerable and ignited the most divisive form of identity consciousness among our people. Years of friendships, cultural exchange, and collaboration built over time have now come under serious pressure from stereotyping. Notwithstanding these challenges, religious leaders must recover and deploy their moral authority and avoid falling victim to the schemes of politicians and their material enticements.

8: Today, the values of Interfaith dialogue have come under severe strain and pressure with extremists from both sides of our faiths denigrating the idea of dialogue with their counterparts of other faiths. Ignorance and miseducation have combined with prejudice to create the falsehood that somehow, one religion is superior to the others. With so many ill equipped fraudsters posing as religious leaders, there is an obsession with defaming the others and widening our differences.

9: Religious leaders must face the reality that here in Nigeria and elsewhere around the world, millions of people are leaving Christianity and Islam. While we are busy building walls of division with the blocks of prejudice, our members are becoming atheists but we prefer to pretend that we do not see this. We cannot pretend not to hear the footsteps of our faithful who are marching away into atheism and secularism. No threats can stop this, but dialogue can open our hearts.

10: Thank God, in the last few years, we have had some good news from outside the shores of Nigeria. The most noteworthy is the initiative undertaken by both Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque, Egypt, Shaikh Mohammed Al-Tayeb in 2019, when both of them met and signed the Document on Human Fraternity. Pope Francis followed up with the publication of an Encyclical titled, Fratelli Tutti, We are all Brothers, in 2020. The following year, the United Nation’s General Assembly declared February 4, World Day of Fraternity. Both leaders agreed that: ‘We need to develop the awareness that nowadays, we are either all saved together or no one is saved. Poverty, decadence, and suffering in one part of the earth are a silent breeding ground for problems that will end up affecting our entire planet.’

11: We need to start thinking of a Nigeria beyond banditry and kidnapping and the endless circles of violence that have engulfed our communities and nation. We cannot continue to pretend that there are no religious undertones to the violence in the name of God that has given our religions a bad name. The way out is for the state to enforce the secular status of the Nigerian state so as to give citizens the necessary freedoms from the shackles of semi-feudal confusion over the status of religion and the state in a plural Democracy. We must be ready to embrace modernity and work out how to preserve our religions and cultures without turning religion into a tool for tyranny, exclusion, and oppression.

12: In finding our way forward, the President must concede that it is within his powers to decide how we are go.

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