REPORT ON THE NIGERIA RELIGIOUS LEADERS ROUNDTABLE MEETING ORGANIZED BY CHURCHES IN ACTION FOR PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT(CAPAD) HELD AT BRIGHTON HOTEL LIBERTY ROAD IBADAN ON THE 9TH -12TH OF APRIL 2014 FOCUSED ON PILGRIMAGE TO THE HOLY LAND ISRAEL/PALESTINE AND PROSPECT FOR JUSTICE PILGRIMAGE. (WITH THE SUPPORT OF THE KARIBU FOUNDATION NORWAY)
In recognition of the fact that it is of value to embark on the journey to see and connect with the holy sites of our Lord Jesus Christ in Israel, Christians must see the pilgrimage journey as an act of worship which mirrors our devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ.
The pilgrimage journey of Christians in Nigeria to the holy land does not largely include a visit to the Palestinians Christians who are experiencing gross human rights violation from the Israeli government. There are indications that the situation in Palestine today can be likened to the then apartheid policy in South Africa. Israel since 1967 occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank and as a result shut out Palestinians from gaining access to their land. The fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and the Hague Regulations of 1907 both forbid occupying power from altering the ways of life of occupied citizens, they likewise prohibit members of the occupying state from settling in the occupied territory . This means that Israel’s action in East Jerusalem throughout history as well as today constitutes gross violation of International Law. Palestinian women and children are arrested indiscriminately and kept in detention all across Israel. Palestinians right of residency is withdrawn once they go abroad to study thus separating families and loved ones. The roundtable did justice to the following Agenda:
Wednesday 09 APRIL
14:00 Hour- Arrival
18:00 Hour- Welcome Gathering and watching of the film- KAIROS PALESTINE
20:00- Brief comment on the film
Thursday 10 APRIL
9:00 Introductory remarks/ re-caps by organizer
The search for a just peace in Palestine is urgent. While the world talks, Israeli settlement building continues unabated with the borders of any future state of Palestine literally collapsing. Pilgrimage presents a strategic avenue for just peace advocacy and its potential continues to be tapped and developed. This religious roundtable on Pilgrimage to the Holy land of Israel/Palestine and Prospect for Justice pilgrimage is the third in a series of advocacy efforts on promoting and supporting Christianity in Palestine, with a view of achieving justice and defending the rights of Palestinians.
9:45-12:45 SESSION 1:
THE STATUS OF CHRISTIANITY IN THE HOLY LAND OF ISRAEL/PALESTINE: EFFECT OF OCCUPATION
“The Bible begins the story of salvation by telling how God called Abraham to leave his home and his people, and apparently also his ancestral gods, and to become a pilgrim, and how he promised that through Abraham and his descendants blessing would come to all the nations…The true sons of Abraham … know themselves to be a pilgrim people who have here no permanent quarters. … The Church … has understood itself more as an institution than as an exhibition. It’s typical shape … has been not a band of pilgrims who have heard the word ‘Go’, but a large and solid building which, at its best, can only say ‘come’.’’
· The Global effort and status of promoting just peace
· Prospects for moving the agenda forward in established forums
· Positions, Initiatives and priorities on promoting peace in Holy land
12:45 -13:00 Coffee Breaks
13:00-15:00 Session 2
THE NIGERIA PILGRIMAGE APPROACH TO HOLY LAND JUSTICE/PEACE ISSUE
· The concept of Pilgrimage Theology
· Pilgrimage as a tool for Peace and support
· How contextual and ethical is pilgrimage from Nigeria, in the face of Ignoring Occupation?
16:10 -19:10- Film : “The Village under The forest”, Discussion and comments on the film
Friday 11 APRIL
09-00-13:00: SESSION 3
THE ROLE OF RELIGIOUS LEADERS IN PROMOTING JUSTICE PILGRIMAGE
A pilgrimage can be thought of as a micro-journey by means of which one explores the macro-journey of one’s life. Thus Christian Pilgrimage to Israel would be aimed at helping one to live out the Gospel more comprehensively when one returns to one’s daily life. It is vital that this connection with the whole of life is present in pilgrimage: the journey in, as it were, becomes the foundation for the journey out. And this should be true not just at a personal level but at a communal and societal one too.
· Opening this session with Sabeel film- “The Stones Cry Out”
· Nigeria-specific issues and effect of the traditional Pilgrimage system
· How to involve Churches in the organization of Pilgrimage from Nigeria
· How can Churches take ownership of Pilgrimage to address injustice in the Holy lnd of Israel/Palestine
13:00-13:30 Coffee break
13:45-15:00 SESSION 4:
THE ROLE OF NIGERIA CHRISTIAN IN ADVANCING A FREE PALESTINE
It is a scandal, and pilgrimage of a much distorted sort, when so many Christians visit Jerusalem without a second thought about the Church in Israel/Palestine and the suffering in the Middle East. In his fascinating From the Holy Mountain, William Dalrymple exemplifies a healthier type of pilgrimage in the Holy Land. In the context of his arrival in Jerusalem he is attentive to the change in the fortunes of Christians in the old city. In 1992, 52 per cent were Christian; now Christians make up fewer than 2.5 per cent of the population. In the context of his pilgrimage in Jerusalem, Dalrmple connects the ancient Christian sites to present-day oppression of Christians in Israel/Palestine by the Israel government. Without the local Christian population, the most important shrines in the Christian world will be left as museum pieces, preserved only for the curiosity of tourist. Christianity will no longer exist in the Holy Land as a living faith; a vast vacuum will exist in the very heart of Christendom.
If Christians are genuinely concerned to follow Jesus who was born and died in Israel, then like him, they need to take the whole of life, including politics, seriously. The Old Testament prophets were deeply concerned for justice in Israel and, while human bombs are immoral and unacceptable, so too is Israel oppression of the Palestinians. Part of all Christian pilgrimage to Israel ought as a matter of principle to connect with these issues.
· Exploring ways to support the Boycott Divestment and Sanction strategy
· The role of Nigeria in promoting Just Peace in Israel/Palestine
· Justice Pilgrimage- where do we go from here?
Communiqué, closing/ concluding remarks
15: 00-16:00 LUNCH
16:30- 17:00- Media interview with Religious leaders on Corruption in the Nigeria Pilgrimage System
At the conclusion of the agenda and discussions, the Roundtable has the following as recommendations and issued as a communiqué:
I. Christian pilgrimage from Nigeria to the holy land must not sacrifice the act of worship and piety which our Lord Jesus Christ exemplified.
II. Christians in Nigeria should develop a policy paper to mirror a common approach in respect of justice issues arising from visit to the holy land.
III. Test tours to the holy land should be organized for Nigeria religious leaders to include visit to Palestine and visit holy sites in order to understand the Palestinians situation.
IV. Nigeria Christians should be encouraged to embrace pilgrimage to the holy land facilitated by licensed Christian tour groups in a bid to visit Palestine and encourage the growth of local economy. An example of such tour group is the ATG (The alternative tourism group in Palestine).
V. Pilgrims from Nigeria are encouraged to identify with Christians in Palestine in the course of their visit.
VI. The come and see document, The Kairos document must be made available to churches for use in their study sessions so that intending pilgrims will have awareness about the Palestine and current situation
VII. The films, The village under the forest, The Kairos Palestine and The stones cries out, should be watch by Christian congregations at synods and meetings across Nigeria, so as to create pictorial and visual education to a large number of Christians, in a bid to prepare them for supporting the peace and justice course in the Holy land.
VIII. The BDS should be encouraged amongst Christians at every available opportunity and further find ways to promote it amongst ECOWAS countries. One practical way is to sensitize pilgrims from Nigeria to be vigilant to buy only made in Palestine goods during pilgrimage, so as to avoid the risk of promoting the growth of companies in the occupied Palestine lands.
At the roundtable, religious leaders adopted a joint statement pledging increased activism by Christian religious community in Nigeria towards enhancing peace and human rights of Palestinians. The statement also frowned at the massive corruption both in selection of Pilgrims and funding by government, of pilgrimage exercise, it therefore align with the position of Bishop Felix Ajakaiye, the catholic Bishop of Ekiti State and the representative of Christian Association of Nigeria at the on -going national conference in Abuja, that the Oransanye commission report on pilgrimage be upheld, noting that total freedom must be given to Christian churches to organize, and government provides only consular services. Diplomatic relation should be established with a view to networking and intervening in the Palestinian situation. Hence the need for a Palestine embassy in Nigeria to provide education services to teaming Nigeria Christians especially during pilgrimage Season
The statement and the communiqué will be presented to the National Executive of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Christian Council of Nigeria, and the Nigeria Christian Pilgrims commission, synods of Dioceses and independent Pilgrimage /Tour operators.
In order to continue in the tone and tempo of renewed activism, the roundtable have the followings as action point, not in any order of priority but with a view that all are imperative and critical to achieving desirable results as soon as possible.
1. Church leaders should be encouraged to re-orientate their members toward the concept of good neighborliness.
2. CAPAD should organize awareness programmes for lecturers and students in tertiary institutions on happenings in Palestine.
3. CAPAD should establish partnership with Nigeria theological institutes and other faith based organizations in order to facilitate the re-orientation of people about the history and developing world stories. E.g. helping people to have the right understanding of the situation of the Palestinians.
4. Diplomatic relation should be established in networking and affecting the Palestinian situation.
5. CAPAD should partner with The Full Gospel Fellowship at the grassroots level to promote information dissemination at the grass root level.
6. A newsletter should be developed to share the news of the Palestinian situation.
7. CAPAD should facilitate meeting of church leaders to formulate policy relating to what should be considered as holy sites.
8. CAPAD to explore interfaith intervention against the wrong treatment melted out to Arab Christians and Muslims by the Israelis.
9. Possibility of having a round table discussion and approach with the leadership of Christian Association of Nigeria should be explored.
10. The BDS boycott should be encouraged amongst Christians at every available opportunity and further find ways to promote it amongst ECOWAS countries.
It is hope that continue advocacy will be done as a result of the action plans, monitoring of impart will also be done through feedbacks from participants and reactions from synods, media opinion and editorials as well as conduct of opinion poll on intended pilgrims of 2014. The option of starting a theological discussion on Pilgrimage, using Immanuel college of Theology as a centre is germane. Graduating ministerial students will be trained and exposed to the reality in the Holy land, so that their informed position will rub positively on their congregations.
1. Most Rev. Michael Kehinde Stephen- Archbishop of Methodist Church/CAPAD
2. Rt. Rev. Bankole Fabusoro (Bishop representative of the Primate Church of the Lord, Aladura)
3. Rev. Dr. Testimony Onifade – Represent the National President, Nigeria Baptist Convention
4. Ven. Dr. Ayo Atowoju- Theologian/Lecturer, Ajayi Crowther University Oyo
5. Very Rev. Dr. Williams Egbetakin- Theologian/Philosopher, Lecturer Immanuel College of Theology and Christian Education
6. Johnson Olukunle Akanmu- Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International
7. Mr. Akin Thomas-All Saints Church Ibadan/KAIROS NIGERIA
8. Prof. Segun Oke- All Saints Church Ibadan/KAIROS NIGERIA
9. Captain Happiness Uzoho- The Salvation Army
10. Rev. Dr. Paul O. Kolawole- Conference President Osun Baptist Conference
11. The Ven. Dr. Olasode Olagbaju- Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion
12. Rev. Dr. Kehinde Babarinde- Chairman Christian Council School Advisory Board
13. Mr. Gbenga Opadotun- Chairman Nigeria Union of Journalist Oyo State Council
14. Very Rev. Msgn T.O.A Fadeyi- Catholic Archdiocese of Ibadan
15. Rev. Ezo G. Udofia- Represent Archbishop of Uyo Methodist Church
16. Very Rev. Opeyemi Awe-Presbyter Methodist Cathedral, Agbeni (CAPAD)
17. Rev. Stephen Owolabi- National Youth Council
18. Iyabo Oyekola –The Church of the Lord ( Aladura) world wide
19. Rev. Joseph Adegboye Adediji- Nigeria Baptist Convention.
20. Rev. Joshua Tunji Ojuwoni- Conference President Lagos Baptist Conference
21. Pastor Bidemi Olu- Davies- Household of David online Church
22. Mr. Kunle Oluwasusi- National Mirror Newspapers
23. Rev. Adefolurin Orekoya- Methodist Church Nigeria, Diocese of Ibadan
24. Mrs. Taiwo Odejayi- Methodist Church Nigeria, Diocese of Ikorodu
25. Rev. Kolade Fadahunsi- Kairos Nigeria/CAPAD
Rev. Kolade Fadahunsi