Bishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon is the General Secretary of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC). Before that, he served the Anglican Church of Nigeria as Bishop of Kaduna and Archbishop of Kaduna Province. He served as Bishop of Sokoto, Director of St. Francis of Assisi Theological College in Wusasa and Provost of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Kaduna. In this interview with some media, he talked about the Muslim-Muslim All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential ticket, the insecurity in the country, the issue of gay bishops and the way forward.
Yesou were among those who supported President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, would you say he is leaving Nigeria better than he met it?
As a sociologist and director of the Kaduna Center for the Study of Christian-Muslim Relations, I don’t think it would be right for me to do that. We base our answers on verifiable evidence and I did not. I am evaluating all facets of our society, starting with Kaduna and then the country. However, your question raises an important fact that Nigerians do not consider. Do you think I care who the president is? No. Do you think I care who my state governor is? Do you think I care who my advisor is? Yes, because that’s where I feel the impact of governance. Ask me about Kaduna and I have facts and figures to compare 2015 when El-Rufai came on board and today. I can easily answer this question because this is my condition; the effect of governance impinges on me and ordinary people.
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Many things have changed in Kaduna. Nigerians should actually think and work more locally. Look at the North and our governors; how many of them can compete with Zulum, the Governor of Borno State and El-Rufai? And I dare say they are Muslims.
No matter what religion you profess, Zulum and El-Rufai stand out in the country. I agree that banditry has become the order of the day but as I said we are complicit in this banditry in Kaduna State. Why do they come to Kaduna? Why do they attack pastors, priests? It has nothing to do with religion, it’s about money. They know the church will pay.
Nigeria is currently plagued by a high level of insecurity; considering that you and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Wilby, are friends of President Buhari, how worried are you?
This is very worrying and I know that Mr. President himself is not comfortable with the situation. I remember the last time I came to the country I had an audience with him and expressed our sympathy for the people who lost their lives and those who were kidnapped. He said, and I agreed with him, that “security is the responsibility of every citizen”. I know how things are in Nigeria, we lay all the blame on the incumbent government and the security agencies. But honestly, as a Nigerian citizen, I am sad that a good number of us do not take security as our responsibility.
The government is divided, we all know that. There are those who believe, like my Governor in Kaduna State, that bandits are criminals, whether they are Christians or Muslims, and therefore, there should be no religious feeling, a criminal is a criminal. I totally agree with him that bandits should be treated like they are everywhere in the world. They are criminals and enemies of peace, security and development and they must be dealt with without mercy.
The Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket of the ruling APC is said to be further polarizing Nigerians along the religious divide, what is your view on this?
This is very worrying and many of you have texted me asking for my feedback. I refrained from commenting because we are a very sick country. We are an informed people, but we are very ignorant. So my reaction is one of pity. I confess that all I have done is pray that Christians in particular will follow the path that the Spirit directs them to. I don’t speak prophetically but I do my things prophetically.
Whether we vote or not, we know who will win this election; therefore, my question is, what is the record of Christian leaders trying to convince Christians against such a note? We need to start thinking about the backgrounds of those who suddenly came forward to say they were Christians and asked Christians not to vote for a Muslim-Muslim ticket?
Last year you laid the groundwork for the construction of the Kaduna Center for the Study of Christian-Muslim Relations. How far did you go with the project?
We are progressing; we were able to raise 200 million naira outside the country. My plan is to get the president Buhari to inaugurate it in April 2023. I’m looking for half a million dollars, and we’re halfway to getting it.
What impact will the center have on relations between Muslims and Christians?
As our students graduate from the two-year program, we expect them to create small groups in their communities. We want to start with the basics. Once people know that although their neighbors are Christians or Muslims, they have faith in the same Almighty God, we can work together. If we see someone misbehaving, we must warn them, and if it is a criminal, we report it to the police.
The Anglican Communion has just concluded its Lambert Conference, how did it go?
The conference is held about 10 years in between, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to postpone it. A total of 650 bishops were present and about 450 spouses. However, Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda did not come because, according to them, the Archbishop invited gay bishops to the meeting. The idea of inviting everyone is to give everyone the opportunity to express their opinion. So gay bishops were invited but not their partners, and because of this there were bishops from part of the Communion who were not present because their partners were not invited.
This conference was special because the wives and husbands of women bishops had their own meeting. There were times when they stayed together, but for important decisions the wives were not involved.
Is there a biblical provision on the issue of support for homosexuals in the Anglican Communion?
The Church of England has taken a very clear position that, given the teaching of Scripture, we uphold fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman in a lifelong union, and we believe that abstinence is just for those who are not called to marriage. This is the position of the Anglican Church and it has not changed.
Would you return to Nigeria after your retirement this month?
Well, I got about four invitations to come and help in three churches; one in America and another in the UK. My main focus will be on the Kaduna Center.
What is your advice to Nigerians?
Our country is in a very difficult state, so the more money that is invested in making sure it is safe, the worse it gets. As I said, everyone should contribute to combating this banditry. Let every Nigerian, especially those of us from the North, stay away from religious sentiments.