Saturday, 7 January 2012

Keeping Nigeria in our prayers

Over the last few years Fr George from Nigeria has been a regular visitor to my local church. He usually covers for the parish priest, Fr Kevan, while he has a break in the summer. Fr George is a dedicated and learned man. He studied in Rome and has an impressive theological knowledge. His affable nature, dedication and piety have made him popular among parishioners.

Back in Nigeria, Fr George is the head of a seminary. Since he is still a young man this is quite an achievement. I’m pleased to say he has become a good family friend over the years. He has visited my house a few times and we have had interesting discussions. It’s always a pleasure to talk to someone who is intelligent, offers good advice and shows Christ-like compassion. I like to keep in contact with him via email.

Fr George is based in northern Nigeria, which is generally poorer the south. While the north is predominantly Muslim the south is mainly Christian. Over the Christmas period a number of churches were attacked by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram (“Western education is sin”). The group, which has suspected links to al Qaeda, is fighting to create an Islamic state ruled by Sharia; it exploits the differences within the country as well as the failings of the government.

Fortunately Fr George and his family members were not harmed in the church attacks. The situation, however, remains tense. Added to the sectarian tensions are economic woes. Nigeria should be a prosperous country because of it’s oil reserves, but corruption is so rampant that wealth stays in the hands of a small elite. In his latest email to me, Fr George said:
“On 1st January 2012, we woke up to the rude shock of the Federal government withdrawal of subsidy on petrol by 130% and immediately the cost of goods and services rose by that same percentage at the least. There is right now, proposed indefinite nationwide strike from next Monday. The strike will further paralyse the economy. The problem is the government is not ready to tackle corruption... Every goods in the market has doubled in price. There is serious outrage. If nothing is done immediately, I am afraid the military might come back to governance in the pretext of protecting the internal territorial integrity of the nation. Life is terribly bad for Nigerians.”
We will remember Fr George and Nigeria in our prayers. We hope and pray that things improve in Nigeria, peace returns and there is a reduction in corruption.

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