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Rev. Fr. Patrick Ampani

Pope’s visit: Catholic Priest urges Nigerian govt to learn from Canadian Initiative

Rev. Fr. Patrick Ampani

By Cecilia Ologunagba

New York, July 28, 2022

A Canada-based Nigerian Priest, Rev. Fr. Patrick Ampani, has urged the Federal Government of Nigeria to learn from Canada’s initiative and come up with a national reconciliatory process that will heal the country of religious and ethnic hurts.

Ampani, who spoke in reaction to Pope Francis’ visit to Canada, told the New Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in New York that the Government could initiate a process in collaboration with religious and traditional leaders, to address some past hurts.

NAN reports that Pope Francis is in Canada for a five-day visit to apologise to residential school survivors on their lands for the Catholic Church’s operation of residential schools throughout the country.

The Pope on Monday apologised for the Catholic Church’s cooperation with Canada’s “catastrophic” policy of indigenous residential schools, saying the forced assimilation of native peoples into Christian society destroyed their cultures, severed families and marginalised generations.

“I am deeply sorry,” the Catholic Pontiff said to applause from school survivors and indigenous community members gathered at a former residential school south of Edmonton, Alberta.

According to Ampani, the Pope has come to actively engage in reconciliation with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities on the role the Catholic Church played in the government scheme to assimilate the indigenous people from the 1880s to the 1960s.

“This is a national reconciliatory process initiated by the government leaders, the indigenous leaders and church elders.

“The Nigerian government leaders, religious and traditional leaders from different regions could learn from the Canadian initiative.

“As Nigerians, we can as well explore the issues facing the Nigerian peoples today through reconciliatory process.

“The Nigerian society is compartmentalised along the lines of ethnic, religious and regional divisions which necessitate disharmony among citizens with very little in common.’’

In addition, the Priest said it was painful for him to see that in the tribal, regional and religious politics in Nigeria, some people inculcate a sense of superiority, relegating others to be inferior.

He said this could rob individuals and communities of their cultural and spiritual identities and foster prejudicial and discriminatory attitudes.

Ampani, who is a chaplain with the Canadian Armed Forces, said Nigerian leaders should address the challenges that exist among the ethnic groups, religious groups, Christians and Muslems in the country and come up with a strategy for national reconciliation for the common good of all.

He said for genuine national reconciliation to be achieved, past injustices against ethnic groups and religious organisations should first be acknowledged.

According to him, this requires courage and humility.

“It is essential we come to an honest understanding of our shared history to break the cycle of intergenerational hatred between Muslims and Christians and between the ethnic groups for peaceful coexistence.

“Our National Reconciliation can bring meaningful, tangible and sustainable results for reconciliation through a child-centred approach, exhibited in simplicity and humility.’’

According to reports, more than 150,000 native children in Canada were forced to attend government-funded Christian schools from the 19th century until the 1970s in an effort to isolate them from the influence of their homes and culture.

The aim was to Christianise and assimilate them into mainstream society, which previous Canadian governments considered superior.

Ottawa admitted that physical and sexual abuses were rampant at the schools, with students beaten for speaking their native languages.

The legacy of that abuse and isolation from family has been cited by indigenous leaders as a root cause of the epidemic rates of alcohol and drug addiction now on Canadian reservations.

The discoveries of hundreds of potential burial sites at former schools in the past year drew international attention to the schools in Canada and their counterparts in the United States.

The revelations prompted Francis to comply with the truth commission’s call for an apology on Canadian soil; Catholic religious orders operated 66 of the country’s 139 residential schools.

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