Anglican priest highlights ecumenism in response to violence in Nigeria

By Jean-Benoit Harel and Christopher Wells

In a series of attacks in the days leading up to Christmas, militant forces in northern Nigeria killed more than 200 people and wounded more than 500 more. The attacks came in the context of long-standing, often violent, conflict between Fulani herders and Hausa farmers.

The issue of terrorism in Nigeria, says Anglican priest, the Rev. Dr. Anthony Ishaya, “is a very complex and a very difficult issue to speak about,” not least because so many people have lost fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters, as well as their livelihoods.

A researcher at the Desmond Tutu Centre in South Africa, Fr. Ishaya is taking part in the ecumenical program of the World Council of Churches at the Ecumenical Institute at the Bose Monastery in Italy. He spoke with Vatican News’ Jean-Benoit Harel about the role of ecumenism in helping Nigerian Christians.

Listen to the full interview with Rev Dr Anthony Ishaya

Fr. Ishaya highlighted especially what Pope Francis has called the “ecumenism of blood,” noting that the blood of those who are killed because of faith in Christ “becomes a rallying point where Christians need to unite.”

While denominational differences are not unimportant, he said, “with the kind of situations that are happening in Nigeria, it is very important that we learn how we can exchange ideas, exchange resources, exchange information to be able to protect our communities and protect our churches, and even work in collaboration with the security agencies that we have in Nigeria.”

Fr. Ishaya also emphasized the importance of so-called “receptive ecumenism,” which involves discussing what different Christian denominations can give to and receive from one another.

In addition to ecumenism, Fr. Ishaya spoke about the importance of interreligious dialogue in Northern Nigeria and throughout the country. “It was not by mistake that God, by His providence, has put both Christians, Muslims, and those who do not even believe in anything to be Nigerians.”

He added, “The most important question is: how do we live together as brothers and sisters in Nigeria? How do we live together first as human beings before we begin to bring the different layers of religion, of ethnicity, of tribalism?”

He insisted, “Like Pope Francis has said, we need to walk together, we need to talk together, and above all we need to listen to each other, to know that where can we be able to strengthen and put aside all these differences that we are talking about.”