17.05.10 14:55 Age: 2 yrs

Ecumenical celebration welcomes Living Letters team in Nigeria


A Living Letters team travelling on behalf of the World Council of Churches (WCC)was welcomed to Abuja by Nigerian church and ecumenical leaders during an ecumenical celebration organized by the Christian Council of Nigeria, (CCN) on Sunday 16 May.


The team arrived in the Nigerian capital city Abuja last Saturday. It was the first stop on their four-day solidarity visit to Africa's most populous nation. The CCN is an umbrella organization of all Protestant churches in Nigeria.


The service held at the Cathedral of Unity of the Methodist Church Nigeria in the capital city was attended by top Christian leaders from across the country. They included the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Roman Catholic John Onaiyekan, and the head of the Methodist Church Nigeria, Prelate Sunday Ola Makinde. The CAN comprises churches from all Christian traditions present in the country: Protestant, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, Evangelical and African Instituted Churches.


Preaching in front of hundreds of worshipers, Prelate Ola Makinde described the visit of the team as an expression of the worldwide solidarity of churches with fellow Christians in Nigeria. He added that the visit of the team demonstrates the love of Christ.


"By coming to visit the troubled spot in Nigeria you have followed the footsteps of Jesus Christ who went about doing good things, who cared for the marginalized, the homeless, the oppressed, and comforted those with broken hearts”, the prelate said. He lamented that people in the northern part of the country have been neglected and denied basic rights and expressed hope that the visit of the Living Letters would give hope, encouragement, spirituality and strength to Nigerians for their Christian journey.


Later in the evening during a dialogue session between the members of the team and key Nigerian church leaders, CAN president Archbishop John Onaiyekan, speaking on behalf of the Nigerian churches and ecumenical organizations, expressed great delight at the solidarity of the team noting however that religious crises in Nigeria had become too frequent. He expressed hope that the team's visit would build confidence in the people especially the victims of the crisis.


During a meeting of the team with heads of churches of the Council of Churches in Nigeria, Archbishop Kehinde Stephen, who is the moderator of the WCC Continuation Committee on Ecumenism in 21st Century expressed the view that the WCC should be more dynamic and proactive on issues that concern Christians in Nigeria at this time of crisis. He expressed appreciation, however, for the visit of the Living Letters, which marks the first time people from different parts of the world come to show solidarity with Nigerians on behalf of the WCC.


The Living Letters team also took part in a religious service held for the new president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, and for the family of the former president, the late Umaru Musa Yar'Adua who died recently after a protracted illness.


At the service, the primate of the Anglican Church, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, gave a sermon on "Servant leadership". He said the time had come for Nigerians to think of being productive rather than being consumers of goods brought from the western world. Greatness does not come from buying things for fashion, but from producing things, he said.


The team's day ended with a briefing on situations and issues related to the conflict in Jos, where more than 500 people were killed in ethnic violence in the early part of this year. The church leaders, including those from the conflict-affected Jos, opined that Jos had known peace for years and the situation in the troubled area could be traced to intolerance on the part of the different factions of people due to various reasons.


The members of the team will visit Jos in the Plateau state during the second part of their journey.


The Living Letters visit is being organized by the WCC in cooperation with the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC). The delegation is accompanied by WCC Central Committee members from Nigeria.


(Gbenga Osinaike, the publisher of the Church Times of Lagos, Nigeria, reported from Abuja.)


More information on the Living Letters visit to Nigeria


WCC member churches in Nigeria