Nigerian Pastor Says Decline of Faith in the West is Hurting the African Church

Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto, Nigeria, poses for a photo in Liverpool, England, Oct. 10. He claimed that the loss of faith in the West is causing the decline of the Catholic Church in Nigeria. (CNS photo/Simon Caldwell)
Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto, Nigeria, poses for a photo in Liverpool, England, Oct. 10. He claimed that the loss of faith in the West is causing the decline of the Catholic Church in Nigeria. (CNS photo/Simon Caldwell)

A Nigerian bishop said the Catholic Church in his country is beginning to lose its public influence partly because of the decline of religious faith in the West.

Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto accused European and American politicians and diplomats of publicly “pandering” to Islam at the expense of Christianity.

The result, he said, was the ascendancy of Islam and evangelical Christianity in Nigeria and the decline of Catholicism.

He told Catholic News Service in an Oct. 10 interview in Liverpool that the widespread loss of Christian faith in the West was “absolutely” among the causes of the diminishing influence of the Catholic Church in his own country.

“From my own experience, I find that the British high commissioner, the ambassadors from European countries, the American ambassador — they are pandering more to Islam than to Christianity, because most of them have turned their backs on Christianity,” Kukah said.

“The Arab world is pouring money into Nigeria and the Pentecostal pastors in America are doing the same, and the Catholic Church is now becoming the weakest in terms of access to resources,” he said.

“For me, as a bishop of the Catholic Church, I can see very clearly that our influence in the public space is gradually reducing, and that is largely because of our capacity to mobilize resources,” he said.

It had become no longer possible, he said, for the bishops to appeal to historically Catholic nations for financial help with church projects.

“We can’t go to the Irish ambassador or the Spanish ambassador and say, ‘This is (needed) for the Catholic Church,’” Kukah said. “People are not interested.

“In Ramadan, the ambassadors of Islamic countries are very keen to come to the Muslim celebrations in a way and manner that the Irish or any of these ambassadors are not likely to do for (Christmas) midnight Mass or the Easter celebrations.”

He said that, in his experience, most Catholic ambassadors would prefer to be seen publicly at a Muslim celebration than attending a Christian ceremony.

“Before our election, John Kerry came to Nigeria,” he said. “John Kerry, when he was secretary of state, left the U.S. and came straight to see the sultan of Sokoto. It was a visit that nobody could explain.”

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SOURCE: Catholic News Service