Catholic Bishops condemn attack on peaceful protesters, canvass “forging a path away from chaos to peace”

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THE Catholic Bishops of Nigeria have said that they observed with keen interest and fervent prayers the #EndSARS movement of many Nigerian youths over the last two weeks in protest in our cities and highways, peacefully demanding an end to police brutality and a reformed society for their fatherland. With many other Nigerians across the nation, we stand with these youths and everyone who legitimately cries for justice.

A statement of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria on the #EndSARS youth protests noted that simple threat analysis of these protests would have revealed certain predictable scenarios, which a responsible government, committed to the fine principles of the freedoms enshrined in our democracy, would have sought to control.

“Sadly, in the last few days, we have all watched as certain youth groups, some alleged to be sponsored by government or its sympathisers, infiltrated the group of peaceful protesters and openly dared and threatened to visit violence on protesters and disrupt their gathering.

“It is clearly in the interest of the Federal Government, and of the entire nation, to ensure that our youths are not turned against each other. Instead, we should all promote the unity of Nigerians and do all we can to forestall this issue from further degenerating into ethnic and religious crisis,” the bishops said.

According to the statement, the climax of such disruptive tactics was the unfortunate and tragic events that occurred on the evening of Tuesday, October 20, 2020 when some protesters were gunned down by armed men in military uniform, widely alleged to be members of the nation’s security forces.

“We condemn in the strongest words, the belittling, by these armed men, of the rights of citizens to peaceful assembly. With very heavy hearts, we respect the memory of those Nigerian youths who fell victim of this shameful tragedy that has drawn the attention of the entire international community.

The conduct of these men in uniform was inhuman, dishonourable and detestable to say the least. All lives remain sacrosanct. It is our hope that the government will do all in its power to investigate these killings with a view to bringing those who are culpable to account, without any long delay.

“Following on the sad shooting incident mentioned above, we have noted with deep sadness and firm condemnation the acts of destruction, vandalism and violence being perpetrated in various parts of the country. We entreat and call on those who are engaged in these violent criminal acts to stop them forthwith, and tow the path of peace, in order not to mar the noble cause being fought for by the youths, and for which some of them have already paid the supreme price.

“Our priority now is to save our country and our people. The Federal Government has for long paid rather scant regard for the agitations that have been building up in the country over these years, especially with the daily losses of human lives across the entire country. We believe that it is time to restore honour and dignity to our country and our people.

“We acknowledge and applaud the fact that the government has taken some steps in response to the demands of the youths. A case in point was the swift proscribing of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS. That the president finally addressed the nation is at best a small step in the right direction. But it is evident that the fundamental issues are yet to be addressed. More progressive steps need to be taken by the government.

“The government is, therefore, called upon to take full responsibility for stabilizing the country and restoring hope and confidence in its ability to lead our nation away from this disaster. We encourage the government to seek the best form of dialogue, so as to present to the nation, short, medium and long term solutions to this crisis. Positive and progressive minds in the country, including members of the political parties not in government, the wider civil society, including the religious and traditional institutions and the youths themselves, should be engaged in a round table discussion, so that a way forward can be effectively charted. This matter concerns every Nigerian. Government should mobilize all of us towards a successful outcome.

“We renew our hope in the future of our people to live together in a united, just and peaceful country. However, to do this, our leaders must learn that Nigerians deserve and demand respect for their lives, dignity and rights.

“May God grant eternal rest to the slain youths, and comfort their parents, relatives and friends. Long live our fatherland and God bless,” the statement said.

– Oct. 26, 2020 @ 08:37 GMT /

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