The Catholic bishops’ conference of Nigeria has rejected a bill seeking to establish a National Council of Christian Education, saying the proposal violates the secular character of Nigeria and may undermine their independence.
The bishops urged the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), which originally pushed for the bill at the National Assembly, to promote instead legislation that addresses ongoing attacks on Christians in the country.
The conference rejected the bill in a statement by its president, Archbishop Lucius Ugorji of Owerri, and secretary, Bishop Donatus Ogun of Uromi.
They objected that the bill made no exemption for seminaries and other religious institutes owned by various Christian denominations. The bishops said the bill infringed on the rights of denominations to provide instruction according to their respective doctrines.
The bill seeks to develop, regulate and approve syllabuses at all levels of Christian education. It is also designed to certify Christian religion education instructors at basic and secondary levels, approve the content of all Christian religion education in all schools and accredit programmes of Christian theological institutions.
According to the bishops, CAN should undertake “a proper needs assessment to determine the needs of Christians in Nigeria that would require the support of the government”.
They said that “asking the government to establish a Council for Christian Education simply because Muslims have one is counterproductive”.
They called instead for a focus on the destruction of churches across northern Nigeria and the fact that “Christians face serious challenges and obstacles in gaining access to land to build their places of worship”. Christian religious education is prohibited in some parts of the region.
In addition, the bishops reported that “Christian children are hardly given admission to schools because they bear Christian names and where they could enter higher institutions, they are denied high-profile courses, like medicine, architecture, and engineering”.
The bishops suggested that “if CAN determines that there is a need for a National Christian Council for Education, it must recognise the doctrinal differences of the various Christian denominations and should be under the full control of CAN, and not the government”.