Nigeria’s Catholic archbishop, Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Jos, who is president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in that country, is a man not lacking in courage. As reported by Thaddeus Baklinski on LifeSiteNews, the archbishop has urged a recent meeting of Catholic doctors, nurses and health workers to “resist the influence of Western governments and international organisations who want to force their debased moral and cultural values on the continent of Africa, especially Nigeria.”
It is deeply ironic, as Archbishop Kaigama points out, that “some of the people who introduced Christianity to us have become its ardent critics.” Indeed, “Some of them nurse a pathological hatred for Church directives or moral judgements.” This is a difficult legacy for Nigerian Christians. The British Empire, that ruled and divided up their country’s different tribal areas and greedily exploited its natural resources, also brought in its wake a flood of Catholic missionaries. They ran schools, hospitals and other charitable enterprises – and preached the unchanging moral truths of the Christian faith. Now the “mother country”, so long revered, has moved on to an ultra-liberal, secular stance – whereas the Nigerian Church has remained steadfast to the beliefs that they were taught.
Back here these moral laws are now deeply unfashionable and those who defend them in this country are often attacked or mocked in subtle ways. As the archbishop said: “The Catholic Church has been criticised over her stance on such issues as abortion, condoms, homosexuality, cloning, stem cell research etc.” He reflected: “The Catholic Church is often judged by people who do not care to know what we really believe” and emphasised that “We must not be swallowed up by the tyrannical imposition of some governments or international non-governmental organizations who wish to dictate the moral trend of the world based on their secular values.”
Archbishop Kaigama went on to state that “whether it is about population control, use of condoms, homosexuality etc, sometimes the views of the West are forced down the throats of African through financial inducements.” He warned his countrymen to use their “cultural or intellectual discernment…or else we run the risk of losing our values and becoming neither Africans nor Westerners.”
Such statements must be galling to the liberal elites that run Britain. Why can’t the Nigerians toe the line like obedient ex-colonials and be more grateful for all the aid we want to give them (with certain strings attached, of course)? Why are they so unreceptive towards our own enlightened views on personal autonomy and the right to choose whatever lifestyle we want? Can it be that Nigerian Christians have a deeper sense of human dignity, for all their material disadvantages, than we have over here? Are we perhaps arrogant and patronising in our treatment of them, assuming that we know better what makes for human happiness?
It is also interesting to compare the uncompromising stance of the Nigerian Catholic archbishop with that of the Russian President, Vladimir Putin. When Putin maintains that marriage is between a man and a woman, that orphans should be adopted by a father and a mother rather than by same-sex couples, and that schoolchildren should be protected from the alternative progressive views of a powerful minority, he receives massive international criticism. Yes, I know he is more or less a dictator, with a very poor human rights record and running a country that is rampantly corrupt. Nonetheless, I do not think his support for these moral positions is merely cynical as his critics suggest.
Alongside his uglier features he is also a Russian patriot with a certain atavistic respect for the values and beliefs of his country’s ancient Orthodox Church to which he is now giving support. He also sees that moral disorder will not solve the huge social and demographic problems his country faces – hence, for example, the Russian government’s changed attitude towards abortion and its encouragement of alternative solutions to unwanted pregnancies.
Isn’t it strange that Putin, formed by the KGB in a once-Communist country, should in some respects have more in common with a Nigerian Catholic archbishop than with any of the leaders of the three main political parties in this country?