By Bridget Ikyado
The Archbishop Emeritus of Abuja Catholic Archdiocese, John Onaiyekan has called government and religious organisations to collaborate in boosting humanitarian works across the country.
Onaiyekan made the call in a keynote address titled “The Church in the Service of Integral Human Development: The Nigerian Experience”, at the Caritas Nigeria Day Celebration, on Thursday in Abuja.
The celebration with the theme: “The Church in the Service of Integral Human Development: The Nigerian Experience”, marked the 12th anniversary of Caritas humanitarian activities in the country.
Caritas activities cover Health and HIV/AIDS, Good Governance, Anti-Human Trafficking and Force Migration, Emergency Response and Humanitarian Services.
Other areas are Institutional Development and Capacity building, and Agricultural and Livelihood Interventions.
“Looking forward there is need to put more effort on collaborations with government and other organisations, including religious organisations.
“Caritas Nigeria has different departments in which they render humanitarian assistance to individuals, groups and society. They also have many partners,” he added.
Onaiyekan also said the organisation had worked with Nigerian Government in the areas of education and health, until the civil war, when the collaboration was terminated.
“It is better to collaborate than to stay apart and I think it is not too late for us to insist that we must collaborate with our government.
“Once in a while, the government talk about Public Private Partnership with private business people, have they ever thought of partnership with groups like the churches and other agencies?,” Onaiyekan asked.
He explained that in other countries, religious organisations were given funds to carry out humanitarian activities, adding that it was necessary for Nigeria to adopt that.
“The collaboration between the church and the state must continue to grow, it is only then that we can belong to clubs of countries that are helping others.
“The church need to be seen as agent of integral human development that no person should be left out.
“We must continue to make our services available to everybody who ask for it. This is in line with church doctrine,” he said.
Earlier, the Executive Secretary of Caritas Nigeria, Rev. Fr. Uchechukwu Obodoechina said the celebration was organised to showcase what Caritas has been doing and motivate men of good will to partner with the organisation.
“We all know the level of the unavailability of basic necessities to Nigerians, and the responsibility of the church that is close to the people is enormous.
“That is why we feel we have a duty as a church and as men and women of the faith to build hope among those who have no hope. So Caritas is a participation of the work of the church.
“The church has a responsibility for her sons and daughters, men and women of goodwill, but this job has to be systemically and professionally carried out.
“That is why we work in partnership with other agencies and funding partners to realize the goals and vision of Caritas,” Obodoechina said.
According to him, Caritas is working on 31 projects in 35 states, touching the lives of over seven million poor and vulnerable households in the country.
In their responses, the panelists, Dr Chichi Aniagolu-Okoye from Ford Foundation, Dr Rose Uchem of Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary and Rev. Fr. Maurice Kwairanga, also highlighted the need for corroboration to boost humanitarian works.
Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, the former Chairman of National Human Rights Commission who spoke virtually, cautioned that the collaboration between government and the church should not lead to silencing the church or compromising the word of God.
According to Odinkalu, it would be wrong for a politician to win election on the altar of rigging and come to give thanks to God for such victory in the church.
The event attracted many stakeholder, including National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, Catholic Relief Services, among others.