Seize lenten season to repent of all evils that hurt Nigerians, religious leaders charge political leaders

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Religious leaders in Osun State under the Ecumenical Conference of the Bishops of the Catholic, Anglican, African and Methodist Dioceses in Osogbo and President, Osun Baptist Conference have called on political leaders in the country and Osun to seize the opportunity of this year’s ongoing Lenten Season to turn away from all forms of evils that hurt Nigerians and make the nation to retrogress.

Similarly, the Bishops and President urged citizens at large to allow for a total conversion of their hearts, be more patriotic and shun all wrongdoings in order for the country to be well again.

These entreaties were contained in a Lenten press release jointly issued on Thursday and signed by the Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Osogbo, Most Rev John Akin Oyejola; Anglican Bishop of Osun Diocese, Rev’d Dr Folusho O. Babatunji; Methodist Bishop of Osogbo Diocese, Rt Rev’d Dr Olu Akinola; African Church Bishop of Osun Diocese, Rt Rev’d Dr James O. Bamidele and President, Osun Baptist Conference, Rev Dr. Olubunmi Obalade.

The theme of press conference which was jointly addressed in Osogbo by the religious leaders is: “The Conversion of Heart and The Wellbeing of Our Nation.”

“Brothers and sisters and fellow citizens, we bishops, and leaders of the Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, African and Baptist Churches in Osogbo and Osun State, have in our Ecumenical Conference ahead of the Lenten season reflected on the terrifying state of our nation and Osun State in particular, as we search for true hope for our battered people with the light of the Gospel of Christ.

“Besides military dictatorships, Nigeria as a democratic state has been ruled by various political parties with all shades of political and economic agenda by which they campaigned to make Nigeria a stable, peaceful, and prosperous nation. All of these despite the difference in their obvious outlook have yielded the same negative results that have today constituted our nation into the poorest nation on earth characterized by corruption, mediocrity in high places, abuse of power and privileges, indiscipline, insecurity, injustice, civil unrest, and human rights abuses.

“We discerned in our reflection that we as a nation, are in this tragic situation not for want of the appropriate political or economic ideology, but because our political and public actors regardless of their background and ideological leaning have all been handling the affairs of our nation with the same sinful hearts. Ideologies and individuals changed in our public affairs over the years, but the heart has remained the same. Nigeria today does not need a further change of political or economic ideology as much as it does need a change of heart. Our hearts as a people, especially those of all our leaders, must be converted towards goodness for the course of our history to reverse towards goodness. This year’s season of Lent, through its call to conversion of heart thus offers us the opportunity for a new Nigeria through its call for the conversion of the human heart,” the statement read.

Calling for divine conversion, they said, “But now, now-it is the Lord who speaks-come back to me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, mourning.’ Let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn, turn to Yahweh your God…Sound the trumpet in Zion! Order a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, call the people together, summon the community, assemble the elders, gather the children, even the infants at the breast.” (Joel 2:12-13).

“In those solemn and evocative words God Almighty summons all human beings especially people who made covenant with Him to a period of soberness through fasting; penance, stripping of self of all paraphernalia that make man forget easily that he is dust, even priests are to descend from the sanctuary to join the rest of mankind in penitential humility to cry for mercy and beg the Lord to bring all evils and disasters to an end and give true freedom and peace to his people.

“As we open the season of Lent, the Church as the sacred custodian of God’s oracle, proclaims this ever-living word pronounced by God summoning all humanity into the sober atmosphere of sincere self-examination for interior and social transformation. This moment of purification is gift from God, a privilege he grants all human beings especially Christians to begin a better life anew. More so because once evil is rooted out of man’s interior, all his work will tend towards good.

“This is why we the bishops and leaders of the Catholic, Anglican, Methodist African and Baptist Churches in Osogbo use the occasion of the beginning of the sacred season to humbly call all citizens of Osun State to reflect deeply and repent of all forms of evil especially those that hurt fellow human beings and the community. Although, Lent is exclusively a Christian spiritual exercise, the benefits of its discipline touch everyone. The Ramadan of Islam will soon arrive summoning yet not only Muslims but all human beings with lively conscience to soberness and to repentance from wrongdoing. In fact, the sober retreat to which we are called are in essence not the exclusive spiritual needs of Christians and Muslims alone but of all human persons and human societies to whom evil is repulsive and who value growth and progress.”

Describing government as “the primary addressee and effective preacher of penitence and conversion in the scriptures, the clerics stated, “In God’s oracles revealed in the Bible in which He calls the entire society to repentance from evil, God’s messages sent to His people are first directly addressed to the political leaders of the community before everyone else. To God, political leaders wield the most powerful influence in the formation and outlook of society. This is why God places primarily the responsibility and guilt of the evils ravaging society on the political leaders and on religious leaders who are hypocrites before political leaders. He laments in Jeremiah 50:6 thus: “My people have become a lost sheep because their shepherds have led them astray and abandoned them in the mountains.”

“Because of this, we encounter God through the prophet Amos addressing series of strong words of rebuke primarily to the political leaders and the elites among His people (Cf Amos 2-6 for instance). This is because it is both the examples and atmosphere that leaders create that promote both evil and good.

“The Word of God does not only reveal political leaders as the primary champions of evil by virtue of their powerful influence on society. God also reveals them as protagonists of repentance from evil. When political leaders call the people to repentance through their own visible acts of soberness and repentance, the people will follow their footstep and repent. We have one of such many instances in the scriptures in story of repentance of rulers and people of Nineveh of the days of the Prophet Jonah. Scripture reads:
The word of Yahweh was addressed a second time to Jonah: Up!’ he said, ‘Go to Nineveh, the great city, and preach to them as I told you to.’ The news reached the king of Nineveh, who rose from his throne, took off his robe, put on sackcloth and sat down in ashes. A proclamation was then promulgated throughout Nineveh, by decree of the king and his ministers. God saw their efforts to renounce their evil behavior. And God relented: he did not inflict on them the disaster which he had threatened. (Jonah 3:2-10).

“Thus, in the name of the Lord, we address you leaders of our dear state and of Nigeria to make yourselves protagonists of a journey of conversion in these sacred days of Lent when God offers us the opportunity to root out all forms of evils in us and among us. We appeal to leaders at all levels to listen to the voice of God and read the signs of times. Reflect, and tend your entire course to willing and doing good with purer conscience. In so doing, challenge all citizens to begin to seek after good, shun hypocrisy, deception, window dressing and lead our nation and people to a prosperous future in God. You; majority of our political and traditional leaders openly profess to be either Christians or Muslims. Penance and repentance being fundamental to both religions should characterize your interior dispositions in this tragic situation of our national life. Let contrition for all the wrong doings of the past challenge you to firmer commitment to doing good in the interest all in the face of divine summon to conversion amidst woes and evils that are plunging our nation into anarchy and doom.

“Our country and Osun, our dear state, have been battered and dehumanized by consistent assaults of mediocrity in public service, violence and corruption. Our nation and state are nothing near the ideal model of a democratic state in terms of structures, principles, system, management and affairs.

“For selfishness and desire to perpetrate self and family cronies in power, privileged elites who have wield authority and influence in Osun state and Nigeria at large have been reluctant to prioritize common good by setting up functionable systems, initiate revolutionary developmental plans with principles and ideals that inspire citizens at all levels to work with integrity and patriotism towards lofty dreams that would make our land a prosperous one. The insatiable human ego and appetite are leading many citizens to place their individual interest over common good. Many ignore and sometimes frustrate opportunities that could be beneficial to all. Government alone is not responsible for all the evils that is sinking Nigeria. But the government, is responsible as the pace setter of the life of society. We appeal to the government of Osun State in particular to make itself an inspiration for the rest of the citizenry to purge themselves of evil and seek after good.

“Over the years, there have been perceptions that government has been sectional in the deployment of opportunities for communities, groups and individuals in the state. One must belong to one group or another, be affiliated to certain political ideologies or religious creed, be anointed by certain figures or personalities to have access to public services and opportunities. We denounce very strongly in the name of the Church every form of politically motivated removal or assignment, sacking or employment of persons, awarding of public contracts or allocation of developments in Osun State and we call on this government to correct such acts of the past and act with righteousness and clear conscience before God before whom everyone would stand in judgement as soon as we are withdrawn from this earth.

“We call on the government to champion in Osun state a society which promotes justice and authentic human progress. The government should improve on carry everyone along in the formulation of its development plan and budgets, and their implementation strategies with evidence of effective monitoring and evaluation. Let the government be fair and act on a level praying ground for all and so be more open and transparent in employments, promotions, appointments, admission, mobilization for empowerment, distribution of relief, review of wages, award of contracts, allotting of development projects etc. These kinds of attitude coming from the government challenge all persons especially the youth to devote their energies to productive activities for the progress of our dear state.”