The webpage of the Youth Ministry of the Irish Province of Augustinians

An Appreciation of the 75 Years of Augustinian Presence in Nigeria

The Order of Saint Augustine remembered the first 75 years of its presence in Nigeria with a solemn Eucharistic celebration on the feast of its spiritual father, St. Augustine, in Jos, in the Plateau State. The Mass was presided by Bishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, president of the Nigerian Episcopal Conference.
Bishop Kaigama, at the end of the Eucharist, joined by thousands of faithful and Augustinian leaders from various circumscriptions, inaugurated a new High School, St. Monica Academy, which was constructed by the Order.
The Augustinian presence in this great African nation began in 1938 when three Irish Friars, arrived to evangelize the zone of Adamawa in the prefecture of Jos.
The Irish Friars learned over the years to begin new dioceses and to form native vocations and their presence progressively dropped from the 50 present still in the 1970's to a small unit, compared with the near 80 Nigerian Friars who today work in this Province of the Order.
Father John Abubakar, as Prior Provincial, guides the local Augustinian community which works in ministry of the formation of priests, the major seminary which is in the north of Nigeria is the work of the Augustinians. They also work in parishes and in schools.
To live as Christians and to preach the Gospel is not always easy, Fr. John explains: " To travel around the area in our religious habit is not easy but it depends on the zone: in Jos, it is not a problem because there are more Christians compared to Kano and Maiduguri, where, in our church of St. Augustine, it is difficult to celebrate Holy Mass without the presence of soldiers: this church was destroyed but then rebuilt two times thanks to the help of the Order.
In Kaduna, the church of St. Rita, another Augustinian church, has seen a terrible terroristic attack. These are difficult times for pastoral work." It is not the same in the rest of the country where there are churches, for example in Abuja, where more than 10,000 are present in church every Sunday.
Regarding the reasons for such violence, Fr. John offers some explanation: I am Nigerian with Muslim roots, I grew up in Kaduna, which is a prevalent Muslim place. My experience with the Muslims was good before Boko Haram... my opinion is that we cannot say that all Muslims are terrorists because there are many good Muslims in Nigeria and we live in peace with each other.
I think that the Government has to do more to protect the population and buy the necessary things to do it, because in the North, where we have this problem, it is the poorest zone in the country and where they lack schools."
Father John is hopeful: "We have to work together, Christians and Muslims, so that we can try to understand what these terrorists want to have: to divide the country between the north and the south, but this is impossible because also in the north there are Christians and they can't displace them.
The terrorists look to create problems, it is possible that they have killed more Muslims than Christians. It is not a problem of religious character. This is a new reality that is not part of Nigerian Muslims. One thing that I like is that, despite this problem, faith is growing, we are not discouraged."
Father Edward Daleng, a Nigerian, is the first African Assistant General of the Order. He states: "For me, to be an assistant general as an African is an evident sign that the Order is growing in Nigeria and also in Africa where we are present in Congo, Tanzania, and Kenya. This is a sign that the Order has a heart in the African continent and especially in Nigeria where there is an abundance of vocations.
The Order is growing here and thanks to the efforts of various circumscriptions, through the General Curia, we have reconstructed the churches destroyed in the attacks." Father Daleng emphasized the importance of Saint Augustine, as a point of reference for the coexistence of different faiths and cultures: African by birth and Roman trained, Augustine is the bridge between various cultures. The construction of a centre where Christians and Muslims can study together is a sign of hope. This centre, in Jos, inaugurated in the presence of the former Italian Ambassador in Nigeria and the local Imam is intended for Muslim and Christian women.
Antonello Sacchi

Article posted on 15th of November 2014

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