Port Harcourt, Nigeria, 12-18 January, 2020: During this time, 300 Religious Men and Women from 95 Congregations gathered at the Catholic Pastoral Centre, Igwuruta, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria in the South-South region of Nigeria. It was the Joint Conference of Major Superiors of Nigeria which brought together the Conference of Major Superiors of Nigeria (CMSN [Men]) and the Nigeria Conference of Women Religious (NCWR).
>>>>>Below is the Communique issued at the end of the Conference<<<<<
A Communique issued at the end of the 2020 Joint Conference of Major Superiors of Nigeria at the Catholic Pastoral Centre, Igwuruta, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria, 12-18 January, 2020
“Safeguarding and Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Adults/Nigerian Youth in the Face of the Present Situation: Migration, Drugs and Fundamentalism”
We, the Major Superiors of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in Nigeria, held our Annual Joint Conference at the Catholic Pastoral Centre, Igwuruta, Port Harcourt, Rivers State from 12 – 18 January, 2020. Having prayerfully reflected on the theme “Safeguarding and Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Adults/Nigerian Youth in the Face of the Present Situation: Migration, Drugs and Fundamentalism”, we now issue this communique.
2. Consecrated Persons in a Changing World
As Consecrated Persons, we call to mind the statement of our Lord Jesus Christ: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4: 18-19). This mission of Christ entrusted to us, propels us to continue to be witnesses of the Gospel values to a world always in need of God.
We commend the efforts of the Church and other groups and individuals who are committed to promoting the common good in our society. However, we recognise the fact that God’s grace is sufficient for us, but as humans we fall short of expectation and therefore rely on God’s help.
Following in the footsteps of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, we acknowledge the sufferings of those who are victims of sexual abuse, abuse of power and abuse of conscience, especially minors and vulnerable adults. We painfully note that some of these abuses were perpetrated by some clerics, consecrated persons and those entrusted with the responsibility of watching over and caring for the vulnerable.
While we condemn these atrocities and reaffirm our commitment to do everything possible to rid the Church and Society of all forms of abuse of minors and vulnerable adults, we pray for healing for all those who are suffering as a result of these abuses.
3. Issues and Trends in the Church and Society
The world has made substantial progress in many facets of life. These include: improved health care, greater access to education, technological advancement, among others. However, we are aware of the challenges the society is facing in our world today, namely, cultism, unemployment, drug abuse, sexual abuse, same sex relationships, migration, terrorism, human trafficking, religious fundamentalism, etc. The menace of kidnapping has been on the rise in Nigeria as evident in the recent kidnap of four of our seminarians at the Good Shepherd Seminary in Kaduna. While we condemn the act and call for their unconditional release, we commiserate with the Catholic Province of Kaduna, the Seminary community and the immediate families of the victims and assure them of our closeness in prayer.
4. Way Forward
We acknowledge the fact that the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults is wrong anywhere and anytime and is not negotiable. Therefore, all minors and vulnerable adults have fundamental right to be respected, nurtured, cared for and protected. In our efforts to rid the Church and society of these abuses, we recommend the following:
- Every institution and programme/project must have an active protection policy based on the guidelines from the Bishops Conference and/or other guidelines.
- The suitability of the candidate to interact with minors and vulnerable adults must be ascertained in the selection and recruitment of personnel for different fields.
- Perpetrators of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults should be prosecuted. Every conspiracy of silence and secrecy must be eschewed.
- Sensitisation programmes and workshops especially for the young people on issues of abuses, migration and fundamentalism should be organised at all relevant levels of Church and society.
- Healthy social boundaries must be respected in every human relationship.
- Religious bodies should collaborate with government and other developmental agencies to put in place concrete initiatives that can empower and equip our young people.
In the words of Pope Francis, “Our Lord Jesus Christ calls every believer to be a shining example of virtue, integrity and holiness. All of us, in fact, are called to give concrete witness of faith in Christ in our lives and, in particular, in our relationship with others” (Vox Estis Lux Mundi). May God give us the grace of true witnessing and may He protect us from the evil that threatens to devastate our Church and Society. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Consecrated Persons continue to intercede for us. Amen.
Very Rev. Fr. Simeon Nwobi, CMF – President, CMSN (Men)
Very Rev. Mother Mary Claude Oguh, IHM – President, NCWR
Rev. Fr. Kingsley Ogbu, SMMM – Ag. Executive Secretary, CMSN (Men)
Rev. Sr. Augustina Okoroafor, SSH – Executive Secretary, NCWR