The Justice Development and Peace Commission of the Catholic Archdiocese of Ibadan is not an organisation on its own. It is part of a network of organisation and is partly dependent on some mother organisations. Therefore, in this section of the website, not only the history of JDPC will be discussed, but also this relation with other peace commissions. The following parts are included:
The Commission for Justice and Peace
The Catholic Church has established permanent structures through which it operates in the form of pontifical commissions and councils. As a practical measure to concretise the will of the Church on the issues of Justice and Peace and at the specific request of the Second Vatican Council (cf. Gaudium et Spes 90), Pope Paul VI on the 6th of January, 1967 set up a Commission on an experimental basis. The structure and framework of this Commission was given in the motu proprio, Catholicam Christi Ecclesiam. Pope Paul VI stated emphatically that, “the purpose of its establishment is to awaken in the people of God full awareness of their mission today…. The name of this Commission, Justice and Peace aptly describes its programme and its goals.”
The specific functions assigned to this department include, the promotion, deepening and on-going development of the social teaching of the Church, which is the collation of teachings on the human person and the human continuity derived primarily from conciliar, papal and Episcopal documents. There also include the writings of theologians and other scholars who develop, comment on and draw applications. The pronouncement and the stand of the Church on particular social issues is usually made known in the social teachings.
Apart from these specific functions, the Council is also saddled with the responsibility of creating awareness in the people of God about the concerns of the Church in the area of Justice and Peace; and also helps the laity to understand their responsibility in the social field. The Council popularises the documents of the Church on the issues of Justice and Peace, making it to reach a wider audience, so that Christians at the grassroots may take inspiration from it for their daily lives.
The importance of the issues of Justice and Peace in the minds of the Church was further demonstrated by the ratification of its aims and objectives by the Holy Father on 10th December 1976. As contained in the motu proprio, Iustitiam et Pacem, the general aims of the Commission are: to examine and study (from the point of view of doctrine, pastoral practice and apostolate) problems connected with justice with the aim of awakening God’s people to full understanding of these questions and awareness of the part they play and duties that fall on them in fields of justice, the development of peoples, human advancement, peace and human rights. The Commission is to examine what specifically Christian Constitution can be made to solving these problems. It is also to encourage members of God’s people to Christian witness and appropriate action in the above fields. These aims were further refined by Pope John Paul II in 1988 in his Apostolic Constitution, Pastor Bonus. The document states that the Commission’s aims are:
Structures of Justice and Peace Commission
Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses. This is because teaching presents an ideal but witnessing concretises and gives it life. Whoever ventures to speak to people about justice, which brings about peace, must first of all be seen to practice it; he / she must first be just in the eyes of those receiving the good news. The Church at all levels is irrevocably committed to transforming the sinful structures embedded in the society; if not, it will not be proclaiming the gospel with integrity. It will not be replacing bad news with goodnews.
To effectively disseminate the goodnews, the Commission for Justice and Peace begins from the smallest unit of the Catholic Church’s structures up to the level of the Vatican. The smallest unit of the structure of the Church is the small Christian community. At this level, there is a contact person that is expected to be well schooled on the issues of Justice and Peace. These contact persons at the community level are in touch with the parish committee of the Commission. Parish Committee falls under the Diocesan Commission. All the Diocesan Commissions put together form the Provincial Commission at the Regional level and from these we have the National Commission for Justice and Peace, which report to the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace in the Vatican.
Graphical Structure of the Justice and Peace Commission
The Justice, Development and Peace Programme in the Nigerian Church
A Pan-African Justice and Peace Conference was held in Lesotho from 29th May to 3rd June, 1988 where thirty resolutions were passed. Prominent among the resolutions passed was the urgent need to establish permanent Justice and Peace structures at National and Regional levels by the different Episcopal Conferences, especially for those where there were none or where the structures were weak.
The mandate for the establishment of Justice and Peace Commission was made more emphatic by the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II in the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in Africa when he said inter alia:
the Church must continue to play her prophetic role and be the voice of the voiceless…. But to achieve this effectively, the Church as a community of faith must be an energetic witness to Justice and Peace in her structures and in the relationship among her members…. In what concerns the promotion of justice and especially the defence of fundamental human rights, the Church Apostolate, cannot be improvised. Aware that in many African countries, gross violation of human dignity and rights is being perpetrated, I ask the Episcopal Conferences to establish where they do not yet exist, Justice and Peace Commissions at various levels. These will awaken Christian Communities to their evangelical responsibilities in the defence of human rights.
It was in swift response to these challenges of the Holy Father that the issues of Justice and Peace became a top priority on the agenda of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria. It should not, however, be concluded that that was the beginning of Justice and Peace in the Nigerian Church, for Justice and Peace has been in operation with different names in almost all the dioceses. Archbishop Ganaka in his welcome address to a National workshop on Justice and Peace in Jos lend credence to this fact when he said, “a similar workshop of this nature took place in Ibadan in the seventies and gave solid foundation to the coordinator system that has been entrenched in the Nigerian Church with marvellous results in most parts of the country in the areas of Development, Justice and Peace.”
However, the new spirit that has emerged with the African Synod prompted the Nigerian Catholic Bishops Conference to do a structural planning designed to allow the Justice and Peace Commission to function well. It affirmed:
our response to the “signs of the times” in Nigeria must be judged, therefore by the degree of our commitment and that of the whole Church in Nigeria to building up a world of people rooted in the values of the kingdom, justice, mutual support, and peace, journeying with them in hope and in pain. Otherwise, while our people ask for bread, we are giving them stones.
This new commitment and zeal is clearly demonstrated and seen at work in the eight point “Plan of Action” on Justice and Peace that was drawn at the end of a two-day study session in January 1995 organised to reflect on the gains of the African Synod. The Bishops’ Plan of Action is as follows:
Preamble: Justice and Peace should be seen as part of integral evangelisation, not just an option. The challenge before the Nigerian Church is how to bridge the gap between faith and real life. It is therefore recommended that:
• Gospel values of justice, fair play and brotherhood must be brought to bear on all dimensions of our national life.
• The structures of the Catholic Secretariat should be strengthened financially and otherwise to promote justice, development and peace.
• Justice and Peace committees, which already exist on the national, provincial and diocesan levels, should be established in all parishes and local stations.
• Justice must be reflected and be seen to be reflected in the structures and policies of the various organs of the Catholic Church in Nigeria.
• When confronted with cases of great injustice, prophetic option on the part of the Church may demand real martyrdom that is, suffering on the side of the poor and the oppressed.
• Seminaries, Novitiates, Catholic Institutes, and Basic Christian Communities must promote the knowledge and spread of the Catholic Social Teaching. Also Church ministers at all levels should be properly educated on possible Christian responses to socio-economic and political situations that challenge the Christian minister.
• Solidarity action in the form of cooperation and mutual help on inter-church, inter-diocesan and international levels should be encouraged and promoted.
• Justice demands that the Nigerian clergy and laity together pursue vigorously the return of our schools taken over by government.
As a follow-up step to implement this Plan of Action, a national workshop was organised in Jos (15 – 19 April, 1996) for all those involved in Justice and Peace from all the dioceses of the Nigerian Church. This gathering was to plan strategy that will take the plan of action to the grassroots, so that the Church, which has been the voice of the voiceless, will back up its utterances by marvellous deeds in favour of development, justice and peace.
The challenges of the National workshop were translated into many activities in the various dioceses that constitute the Nigerian Church to address the issues of Justice and Peace in their respective domain.
Organisational Structure of Justice and Peace in Nigeria
In consonance with the universal structure of Justice and Peace, which sprouted from the grassroots and terminated at the apex, the Nigerian Church has also put up its own structure, which will enable it to pursue the issues vigorously in order that the objectives of the establishment of the Commission are met. This structure has been built and periodically reviewed for effective programme delivery.
Prior to the year 2000, the JDP Commission was an independent department in the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria established by the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria. The recent reorganisation has brought the JDP under the Department of Church and Society. Its structure is outlined below:
• The National JDP Secretariat: The Justice, Development and Peace Committee in the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) is headed by the Director of Church and Society. The secretariat/committee carries the responsibility of co-ordinating as well as animating the provincial JDP commissions and at times the dioceses. The secretariat/committee serves as the resource centre for the national JDP activities. The Secretary reports to the CBCN on its activities through its chairman and the Secretary General of the CSN.
• Provincial JDPC: The Catholic Church in Nigeria is made up of nine Ecclesiastical Provinces. Each province is made up of dioceses. The JDPC co-ordinator of each diocese along with the JDP commission members form the Provincial JDPC. One of the co-ordinators serves as chairperson or co-ordinator of the province. The nine provinces are Abuja, Jos, Kaduna, Calabar, Onitsha, Owerri, Benin City, Ibadan and Lagos.
• Diocesan JDPC: Each Bishop appoints a JDPC co-ordinator for the diocese to animate, mobilise, and keep the JDPC running actively in the entire diocese. The co-ordinator could be a priest or a nun or a lay faithful. The principles of collegiality, solidarity and subsidiarity inform the “co-ordinator system.”
• Deanery/Zonal JDP Committee: This is a brief but important level between the diocese and individual parishes. Some of the deaneries or zones have a common culture like language and customary practices. The JDP committee would fare well here.
• Parish JDPC: This is where everything happens! The parish presents a perfect example of what the Church is concretely. This is where the JDP programmes, policies and activities take flesh. A dynamic and dedicated body of the JDPC is a must here.
• Outstations’ JDPC: The towns and villages within a parish are part and parcel of the Justice, Development and Peace agenda and they must feel its impact and also actively participate in the JDP activities.
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