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As violence ravages homeland, Nigerian bishop hopes in synod

Vatican City, Oct 8, 2014 / 04:46 pm .- Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, Nigeria, has high hopes for the outcome of the current bishops’ synod, noting the contributions of the African Church despite extreme violence and other local struggles.

“There is great hope, the mood is good and I think there is a lot to be achieved,” Archbishop Kaigama told CNA at the Vatican Oct. 7.

He said the bishops attending the synod have shown “frankness in sharing” and “humility in listening,” as Pope Francis requested at the start of the gathering.

The Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is taking place in Vatican City from Oct. 5-19 to prepare for the Ordinary Synod in 2015. Its focus is on the pastoral challenges facing the family in the context of the new evangelization.

Archbishop Kaigama said the climate at the synod features “a lot of friendship, fraternity and communion.” He called it “wonderful to have bishops from all over world seated with the Pope listening attentively and sharing very amicably.”

The archbishop, who is president of Nigeria’s conference of bishops, also commented on the violent situation in his own country.

In recent years, Boko Haram – whose name means “Western Education Is Sinful” – has targeted security forces, politicians, Christian minorities, and other Muslims in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north.

The militant Islamist group has killed thousands since its insurgency began in 2009. It is blamed for least 2,000 deaths in 2014 alone. The U.N. estimates that its attacks have created more than 470,000 internally displaced persons, in addition to some 57,000 refugees outside of the country.

The terrorist group has made highly publicized attacks in Nigeria, including the April abductions of hundreds of schoolgirls.

Archbishop Kaigama said the members of Boko Haram are not “normal Nigerians.”

“We Nigerians love life, we protect life, we value and treasure motherhood, fatherhood, children are our blessing, so nobody wishes to take life,” he said.

“The normal Nigerian loves life, loves motherhood, loves family and promotes that very well.”

Family is an important value in Nigeria, the archbishop explained.

Nigerians “just want a normal family in line with the biblical concept of family, man and woman together in stable union. They bring up children, if God gives them children, in a communion,” he said.

“This is what we want to see in the family, where values are planted and spiritual and moral issues raised and children grow up like Jesus: in fear of God, in strength and wisdom.”

Nigeria, along with the rest of Africa, has much to contribute to the Universal Church in synod discussions taking place about family issues, Archbishop Kaigama said.

There are more than 40 participants from Africa in the Synod this year, out of 250. The archbishop said this shows “a great development.”

“Africa has so much to offer the world and also to offer the Church. We believe that we shall be listened to. We have our peculiar pastoral issues that we would want to present,” he said.

“We hope that in this period of synodality, solidarity and fraternity we shall be listened to and we shall all go away – Europe, Asia, Africa, America – all go away smiling and happy.”

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