The rank of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) received a boost as the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) returned to the body after five years of walking out of the national Christian Umbrella body in the country over some irreconcilable differences with the leadership.
The Special Assistant to the CAN President on Media and Communications, Pastor Bayo Oladeji in a press statement yesterday, said this reconciliation is a commendable effort of the current leadership of CAN.
Oladeji said that Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria had in a letter dated September 24, 2012 and signed by Most Rev Ignatius Kaigama, the President, Catholics Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBNC) and addressed to the then CAN President, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor announced its withdrawal from the organisation.
CAN was formed in 1976 by five Christian blocs in the country: the Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN); the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria/Christian Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN/CPFN); Organisation of African Instituted Churches (OAIC), Tarayar Ekklesiyoyin Kristi a Nigeria or The Fellowship of the Churches of Christ in Nigeria (TEKAN)/ Evangelical Church of Winning All (ECWA).
He however, stated that since the emergence of his eminence, Rev. Samson Olasupo Ayokunle as the CAN President, he has been working hard behind the scene to ensure the return of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria to the fold.
Ayodeji said Most Rev Kagama had led the leadership of CBNC to the CAN National secretariat last year where in a meeting with Ayokunle’s team they addressed the identified grey areas and Kagama disclosed the readiness of the Catholics to work with the new leadership.
He said history was made on Thursday and Friday with the appearance of the CSN delegation led by Rev Fr. Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua who represented Most Rev Kagama at the expanded National Executive Committee meeting for the amendment of the constitution of CAN and the quarterly meeting of the Association.
HwRev Ayokunle could not hide his elated joy on the new development when he was reacting to their return.
“Their return was one of the best things that have been happening since I was given the mandate to become the President of the Association. One of my visions for CAN is to bring our Catholic brothers and sisters back to the fold and I must acknowledge the support and understanding of my brother in Christ, Most Rev Ignatius Kaigama, President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria and his team.
“I give kudos to all the Principal Officers, the Directors and some Christian leaders in the country for their support and understanding while the dialogue lasted.
“My joy knows no bond with the presence of the CSN at the Constitutional Amendment Meeting held on Thursday and at the National Executive Committee meeting of the Association on Friday. It is our prayers that the Body of Christ in the country will remain one forever in Jesus’ name.
“At a time like this when Christians are almost becoming endanger species in Nigeria, when churches are being denied the Certificate of Occupancy especially in the core North, when Christians are being denied of key public offices and when the Church is expected to speak for the voiceless especially over the economic and social hardship in our country, we cannot afford of being at war with ourselves”.
Speaking further, Ayokunle who also doubled as the President of the Nigerian Baptist Convention said, “Our Association is unity in diversity. Jesus Christ prayed for the Church shortly before He returned to heaven in John chapter 17 when He said, ‘I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me”’ (John 17:20&21).
Speaking in the same vein, the CAN Chairman, Northcentral, Rev Dr Israel Akanji who was among those who played prominent roles in the matter said the return of the Catholics to the Association is a sign of good omen to the Body of Christ in Nigeria.
“We are all happy with this new development, now the Body of Christ in Nigeria is one, virile and strong. We can now speak with one voice. With their return, CAN is even now stronger and greater. We have learnt one lesson or two from the challenges that led to their withdraw. Never again will any of the blocks withdraw its membership.”
The Director of Legal issues, Barrister Samuel Kwanku disclosed that the association is working on the new Constitution to ensure that “CAN has an effective internal mechanism to address any misunderstanding among its members. We are all happy with the return of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN). Our strength lies in our unity.”
The CSN delegation participated fully in all the discourse while the two days meeting lasted.