Wednesday, 24 September 2003

Rome (Fides Service) – “My concern is the good of all the people entrusted to my care, Catholics and non” Bishop Matthew Ishaya Audu of Lafia in the Nigerian state of Nasarawa told Fides Service. The Bishop on a visit to Rome, kindly agreed to answer a few questions.

Your is a new diocese, created only in December 2000. What are the main concerns in your pastoral ministry?
First of all I must say that my primary concern is the wellbeing of the people entrusted to my care. In my diocese there are Catholics, Anglicans, other Christians as well as Muslims. We all want to work to promote peace and prosperity for the whole community. For this purpose the leaders of the different Christian groups meet once a month. There are also government sponsored meetings for Christians and Muslims. In fact the government greatly appreciates the work of the local Catholic Church in this field. More than once in the past I myself have been called by the government to mediate in situations of tribal conflict. And with God’s grace we always managed to settle disputes.

What role does Christian laity play in your diocese?
In Lafia there are a number of different lay associations. The largest is the Central Women’s Association which has branches all over the diocese. These association have a fundamental role in teaching catechism. Laity are also involved in charity and social work. We have three main groups: Caritas functioning at parish level; Justice and Peace at the diocesan level; Health Co-ordination for the diocese which assists mainly AIDS sufferers and promotes an awareness campaign as part of the struggle to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Are there religious communities in Lafia?
We have two religious missions: one run by the Society of African Missions SMA the other by the Augustinians. Besides this we have a number of local communities of women religious: Fatima Sisters, Nativity Sisters, Holy Child Sisters mainly engaged in health-care and education. With regard to Catholic education, the government has recognised the role of the Catholic Church in the field of education and even returned those Church run schools which had been previously nationalised. LM (Fides Service 24/9/2003 EM lines 35 Words: 348)