Thinking Anglicans

God's Country: Nigeria

Updated Wednesday morning

Several commentators, including Andrew Brown in the Church Times have drawn attention to this article in the Atlantic Monthly by Eliza Griswold titled God’s Country. The magazine describes it this way:

Using militias and marketing strategies, Christianity and Islam are competing for believers by promising Nigerians prosperity in this world as well as salvation in the next. A report from the front lines.

The website of Atlantic Monthly also has a related slideshow, an interview with the author, and an audio file.

Episcopal Café has an article, Archbishop Akinola owes the world some answers which discusses this, and has useful links to the reports on the Yelwa massacre from Human Rights Watch.

Fr Jake has more, and also here.

Wednesday update
AkinTunde Popoola has responded to the article (see comments below):

Eliza Griswold’s recent attempt to demonise the Archbishop of the Church of Nigeria by publishing an article raising issues of religious violence is most unhelpful. As CAN president, one of the challenges the Archbishop faced was that of persuading youthful Christians to stop revenge attacks.

While the very sad ethnic/religious Yelwa incident took place in 2004, his statement about no religion having a monopoly of violence was made in 2006 when Nigerian Christians were being slaughtered because of some cartoons published in Denmark.

About Ms Griswold’s article, Archbishop Akinola has commented: “It is a pity that I have again been quoted out of context by the Atlantic Monthly two years after the event and the interview. The incident of the Danish Cartoons started off a crisis in Northern Nigeria. As president of the Christian Association of Nigeria I had to prevail on Christians not to retaliate. If we had not done that there would have been chaos. It was in the context of prevailing on Christian youth not to retaliate that I said what I said”

His statement was made not to encourage violent retaliation from Christian youth, but to recognise the reality of the possibility of such retaliation in the context of extreme provocation.

What is not reported so well, or known so widely is the many efforts that were initiated for peace-making. In February 2007 for example, Abp. Akinola (along with many Anglican bishops) was in the palace of the Sultan of Sokoto, Nigeria’ s overall Islamic leader on a friendly visit. ( http://www.anglican-nig.org/sokoto_surprise.htm ) Abp. Akinola has not and does not encourage violence but continues to maintain peaceful cordial relationships with every peace loving Nigerian irrespective of tribe, creed or gender.

The Western press should learn from the Danish cartoons that articles they publish, whatever the motive might be, can be responsible for the death of many innocent lives hundred of miles away.

Reactions to this response can be seen at Fr Jake here and at Episcopal Café here.

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Martin Reynolds
12 years ago

Bishop (recently deposed as Archbishop) Josiah Idowu-Fearon, the Anglican bishop of Kaduna gives us a perfect description of the Anglican debacle too when he says: “Every crisis is automatically interpreted as a religious crisis. But we all know that, scratch the surface and it’s got nothing to do with religion. It’s power.”

Andrew Brown
12 years ago

I like the way the Father Jake links to the International War Crimes tribunal at the Hague.

John Omani
John Omani
12 years ago

Interesting to read this in the light of the recent press reports on another bishop who seems to have no objection to the killing of his opponents. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/feb/26/zimbabwe Akinola’s statement is striking: “I’m only doing what the Holy Spirit tells me to do. I’m living my faith, practicing and preaching that Jesus Christ is the one and only way to God, and they respect me for it. They know where we stand. I’ve said before: let no Muslim think they have the monopoly on violence.” Unfortunately, it appears one has to break ecclesiastical rules before one can be censured in… Read more »

counterlight
counterlight
12 years ago

I predict that the Communion wide reaction to the goings on in Nigeria will be silence and chirping crickets.

I predict that there will be gale force winds of astonished outrage if the Bishop of New Hampshire should attempt to crash the Lambeth tea party.

Davis Mac-Iyalla
Davis Mac-Iyalla
12 years ago

I am still living in exile because of the multiple death threats by those suspected to be members of the Nigerian Anglican church. What is my crime that I was honest with my sexuality and proved Archbishop Akinola wrong when he told the world lies that there are no gay and lesbians who are members of the Nigerian Anglican church. Archbishop Akinola has refused to listen to the call of fellow Anglicans to publicly condemn those who are sending me those death threats. As you ask questions concerning the Massacre of Yelwa. Do ask questions about my safety and protection… Read more »

drdanfee
drdanfee
12 years ago

Sadly, this massacre and Akinola’s studied, careful parsing in response to questions about its violence are only more evidence for the ongoing suspicion that certain forms of conservative Anglican realignment involve: (A) useemly weaponizing of traditional doctrines, plus (B) heightened weaponizing of conservative religious reasons and justifications for violence (verbal, institutional-legal, physical), plus (C) the raving power madness that lies beneath the surfaces of all the realignment campaigning so far. From a USA perspective, Minns and company are related to some very dodgy characters who are loudly preached to be believing in nothing but all the correct conservative Anglican things,… Read more »

Cheryl Va.
12 years ago

One of my major prayer points in recent months has been to do with how we evangelise, particularly where the church is persecuted. There are some who paint this rosy picture that when their church enters peoples’ lives that there is prosperity, safety, healing and other blessings. Sometimes people manage to move to affluent socities from particularly harsh backgrounds. They come to see for themselves this dream promised to them by the missionaries. Many are very hurt to find that dream is not quite as promised. Rather than dealing with the dissonance of overpromising and under delivery, dishonest sales people… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
12 years ago

Ahhhh! – Counterlight cuts me to the quick!

“silence and chirping crickets”

So true, so true!

Prior Aelred
12 years ago

Has there been any reaction from the “reasserter” blogs to this report? I have searched (although not exhaustively) & seen nothing. The nearest thing was a comment at Fr Jake’s carefully parsing Archbishop Akinola’s exact words — very unpersuasive (IMHO).

I fear that counterlight’s prediction will be quite accurate.

Re; Bishop Idowu-Fearon — I always say that J. P. Morgan thought everything was about money & Sigmund Freud thought everything was about sex but Alfred Adler knew that money & sex were about power.

Spirit of Vatican II
12 years ago

Those good Nigerian Christians are only practicing the good old biblical morality of Numbers 31.

We skirt abysses of brutality, but our sacred books already push us there. What should be done about this???

Weiwen
12 years ago

I understand Pete a bit better after reading Eliza’s article. I can understand a bit of what drives him, and that no one, Christian or Muslim, has it easy in Nigeria. That said, there is no excuse for violence that is not in self-defense. There is no excuse for violations of human rights, like rape. “Crimes against humanity” are indeed crimes against every living human being, and they are also crimes against our Creator. And so, I understand Peter Akinola a bit better. God surely understands him better than I. But I fear that Pete places himself in danger of… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
12 years ago

What is so strikingly obvious about the shameful ++Akinola “no comments” and the +Moore affair(s) is, that in pre modern societies (such as the Church was in the 1950ies and 1960ies in the West and still is in Nigeria and other Patriarchal societies; “sociological relict areas”) the very point and method is to treat women and children badly. Lying, cheating, violence, killings (5th Commandment). Those are Systemic in Patriarchy and Hierarchy. So – to my mind – the different stories are about 2 aspects of the very same… (the +Sisk letter, hanging in mid-air between pre modern and late modern,… Read more »

Tunde
Tunde
12 years ago

Eliza Griswold’s recent attempt to demonise the Archbishop of the Church of Nigeria by publishing an article raising issues of religious violence is most unhelpful. As CAN president, one of the challenges the Archbishop faced was that of persuading youthful Christians to stop revenge attacks. While the very sad ethnic/religious Yelwa incident took place in 2004, his statement about no religion having a monopoly of violence was made in 2006 when Nigerian Christians were being slaughtered because of some cartoons published in Denmark. About Ms Griswold’s article, Archbishop Akinola has commented: “It is a pity that I have again been… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
12 years ago

Tunde:

So, is the official position of the Church of Nigeria that a free press is a danger to human life? Or that a journalist should self-censor because someone, somewhere, sometime, might act violently as a result of his words?

dr.primrose
dr.primrose
12 years ago

Fr. Jake has responded to Tunde’s comments at: http://frjakestopstheworld.blogspot.com/2008/03/from-church-of-nigeria-communications.html He said: “This is all very interesting, but does not address the concern. “When asked by Ms Griswold if members of CAN were sent to Yelwa in 2004, the Archbishop grinned and said ‘No comment.’ “That is the issue. Were men from CAN sent to Yelwa? Did the Archbishop, as President of CAN, send them? “Your attempt to change the subject to a statement made in 2006 does not deter me from feeling strongly that a full investigtion is needed into the events in Yelwa that resulted in the deaths of… Read more »

Weiwen
12 years ago

Tunde, Eliza’s article makes it clear that her interview where your Archbishop said to her, “let no Muslim think they have the monopoly on violence”, took place in 2006. she asked him about Yelwa, he made the above statement. I do recall Peter making a similar statement to the press in 2006, during incidences of violence incited by the cartoons. We are glad that Peter made overtures to the Sultan of Sokoto in 2007. However, you have not made that case that Peter’s words were taken out of context in his 2006 interview with Eliza Griswold. indeed, Peter’s response about… Read more »

Patrick Rothwell
Patrick Rothwell
12 years ago

I recall that, in the aftermath of the race riots that occured after the death of Martin Luther King, at least one American bishop, Patrick Cardinal O’Boyle, stated that if “our people” – meaning the Irish – were forced to live in the conditions that black Washingtonians lived in, “we would have burned the city down a long time ago.” One could take the Cardinal’s statement to mean that he endorsed race riots, but that would be patently incorrect. If a simple “no comment” to the question posed by Frank Griswold’s daughter – a hardly disinterested journalist and someone who,… Read more »

Malcolm+
12 years ago

Well, if you would not have “deigned” to grant an interview to a journalist simply because you didn’t like her father, then your public affairs advisor would clearly be an idiot to allow you to make such a foolish decision on such a childish basis. I’ve read the article. The entire article. While I certainly don’t think the grinning “no comment” constitutes a “smoking gun,” it is still s somewhat disturbing image. And, as so frequently with Tunde’s clarifications, it doesn’t seem to clarify much. Tunde attributes his boss’s comments to another time and place, and with regard to another… Read more »

Tunde
Tunde
12 years ago

People that rape and kill cannot claim to be Christians (Christ like) Eliza was in Yelwa twice. She should have asked both the victims and the observers who the backers were. Who sent people to kill worshipers in a church? Who sent people to raze down a different tribe/faith? I think there was a government inquiry and a State Governor was suspended from office due to the violence. Surely she must have heard about that but then, there is someone whose image is to be tarnished. The Muslim American society has this concerning the Yelwa crises. http://www.masnet.org/news.asp?id=1194 The BBC had… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
12 years ago

“As CAN president, one of the challenges the Archbishop faced was that of persuading youthful Christians to stop revenge attacks.”

I should think most agree with the analysis, but what is being questioned is Did he do it? Or did he encourage them? Or anything in the grey areas in between these two.

The They have no monopoly on violence utterance, although it seems the Archbishop likes it and repeats it, only makes this worse.

It is shocking to most Christians all over the World. As to No comments –

Cheryl Va.
12 years ago

February 2006 is not four years ago http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/news_syndication/article_060223nigeria.shtml

There might have been an incident four years ago, it is interesting that there were incidents “yesterday” (23 February 2006).

The comments by certain high profile people in both instances were similar.

There is nothing wrong with identifying a recurring long-term pattern.

Similarly, there are players who purport that Gene Robinson’s 2003 consecration was the reason to justifying attempting to break the global Anglican communion and who are the same players who sponsored who the break away church in South Africa 1987.

Tunde
Tunde
12 years ago

Yelwa crises was in 2004 Danish Cartoons saga was in 2006 during which the monopoly statement was made and the interview conducted. 2008 story was released 4 years after 2004 raising questions linked to supposed inciting statements of 2006. Ekklesia’s story is understandable. Anyone reading this or similar blogs will write the same. The New York times wrote differently that “ The riots in Onitsha were ignited when a busload of the bodies of Ibo victims of violence in the north returned home …” ( http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/24/international/africa/24nigeria.html ) The BBC reported that “Once started, the violence in Onitsha was fuelled by… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
12 years ago

An Army?

Göran Koch-Swahne
12 years ago

Still no mentioning of this Yelwa incident on alias Titus 1:9…

paulbagshaw
12 years ago

Tunde, thank you for your clarification. Only it still seems to miss the main questions:

At Yelma, according to Eliza Griswold’s account the Christian attackers were wearing name tags marked ‘Christian Association of Nigeria’. The Archbishop was President of the ‘Christian Association of Nigeria’ at the time.

So what was the relationship between the Archbishop, the Association, the local leadership of CAN, and the organised attacks?

Göran Koch-Swahne
12 years ago

Spin and Evasion are the Marks of This Age.

Tunde
Tunde
12 years ago

“Abp. Akinola has not and does not encourage violence but continues to maintain peaceful cordial relationships with every peace loving Nigerian irrespective of tribe, creed or gender.”

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