Archbishop of Nigeria gives inspirational talk at Ardhowen

Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon speaks about the Nigerian Conflict in 2000

Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon

Clogher Diocese certainly turned out its best weather for its special guest, The Most Revd Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Archbishop of Kaduna, Nigeria, and last Wednesday evening (6th June 2007) was no exception at the Ardhowen Theatre, Enniskillen.

Fermanagh District Council kindly hosted a Chairman's Reception in honour of the Archbishop at the Theatre and this was followed by the finalé Macartan 1500 event 'An Audience with a Nigerian Archbishop'.

His talk entitled 'Nigeria - Challenges to Contemporary Society' enthralled a large audience, as he spoke about the complexities of Nigerian Society specifically detailing the influences in the Nigerian state of Kaduna where the population ratio of Christian's and Muslim's are very similar.

In February 2000 violence erupted in this notorious flash point as a consequence of the proposed introduction of Sharia (Islamic Law). Although Sharia was not new to the area it had never been fully implemented. "A peaceful protest opposed to the introduction of Sharia escalated into violence and 1000 were killed in 2 days. Within 4 days up to 4000 were killed," said Archbishop Josiah. Within a matter of weeks over 20,000 people had been killed, and many businesses were destroyed.

Following the riots of 2000, a representative body was set up, and Archbishop Josiah was at the forefront of efforts to heal the rifts in society. He often reminds people in his society, "Whether you are Christian or Muslim, like it or not this is the only piece of land God gave to you - you either work together … or end up destroying it."

Bishop Michael Jackson contributed to the evening by saying, "As we in Northern Ireland begin to grapple with a whole new political reality, we also discern the responsibilities in a whole new definition of society. People who previously hardly met one another at all now meet and will meet much more regularly. The agenda is already moving all of those who exercise leadership forward and is asking of them a desire and willingness to bring people with them by changing hearts and minds. In a different context, on a different continent Archbishop Josiah and others are grappling with such issues. It is my hope that by listening to one another and by asking questions we all can learn from the sharing of experience over the time Archbishop Josiah is with us."

The Macartan 1500 Project celebrates 1500 years since the death of Clogher Diocese's patron saint - St Macartan. The Project is part financed by the European Union through the EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation and managed for the Special EU Programmes Body by the Northern Ireland Rural Development Council (RDC).

11 June 2007