Adapted from ACNS
The secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, would be prepared to talk with Boko Haram’s leaders, if they could be identified.
Speaking in a HARDtalk interview with BBC journalist Stephen Sackur, the archbishop said it was “not helpful” to talk of a “fundamental struggle between Christians and Islam” or to speak of “a form of genocide” against Christians.
Drawing from his experiences in Nigeria, Archbishop Idowu-Fearon said: “The Boko Haram crisis we are facing does not discriminate. They come under the guise of Islam, but we all know … that this is not the Islam we are used to.
“For example, in that northeastern part of Nigeria it is predominantly Muslim: Shia and Sunni Islam. Who are they trying to convert there? So it isn’t religion per se, that’s the point.”
The archbishop did not criticize Pope Francis for his reference to “a form of genocide.” He said the pope made his statement based on the information available to him, but added: “With what I lived with in my country, I wouldn’t use the term religious genocide, because with Boko Haram more Muslims have been killed than Christians.”
He laughed off criticisms from some quarters that he was a “Muslim bishop” because of his extensive studies of Islam and dialogue with Islamic leaders. “I didn’t choose this ministry,” he said. “God called me. And I believe God has done that for a specific purpose.
“I come from the northern parts of Nigeria, where religion is being used and has been used to divide us along Christian-Muslim lines. In the southwest we have a significant, huge number of Muslims and Christians. They don’t fight. Why are we fighting in the north?
“I believe my calling is to help the Muslim to see me as a fellow Nigerian who comes from the northern part of the country.”
Archbishop Josiah said there will “always be room for conflict” between Islam and Christianity because both religions are missiological, but “our job, my job, is to help the Muslim and the Christian to understand each other.”
Asked whether his bridge-building work could extend to dialogue with Boko Haram, Archbishop Josiah said: “If we can actually identify who the true leadership is …, why not? … Dialogue is the beginning of the solution … if they are willing.
“We must all understand one thing: these are all God’s children, whether they are criminals or not. They are all God’s children and God loves us equally. These have chosen to behave the way they are behaving, and the responsibility is on those of us who believe there is a better way to help them to find it.
“That’s why I am a Christian. That’s why I am involved in bridge-building.”
During the 24-minute interview, Stephen Sackur touched on a range of issues, including conflicts within the Anglican Communion. Archbishop Josiah said Anglicans are working on a range of “kingdom things,” including Islamic extremism, corruption, poverty, and bad governance.
Download the full interview through HARDtalk’s podcast.
Video excerpt of the interview: