Where we started
The Church’s social doctrine is an integral part of her evangelizing ministry. Nothing that concerns the community of men and women-situation and problems regarding justice, freedom, development, relations between peoples, peace- is foreign to evangelization, and evangelization would be incomplete if it did not take into account the mutual demands continually made by the Gospel and by the concrete, personal and social life of man (Paul VI.Evangelii Nuntiandi.29)
This submission of Pope Paul VI captured aptly the rationale behind the very existence of Justice, Development and Peace Movement of the Catholic Diocese of Oyo, Oyo State. It follows therefore that the history of the Justice, Development and Peace Movement can be traced back to 1892 with the revolutionary doctrinal corpus of Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, which launched the Church into a special pastoral concern for masses of people. Rerum Novarum became the document inspiring activity in the social sphere and the point of reference for this activity. It also sets the ball rolling for the church’s response to the socio-political reality of any given period of time. This was further reinforced by the subsequent papal’s encyclicals and Church’s documents viz. Quadragessimo Anno, Non Abbiamo Bisogno Mater et Magistra,Pacem in Terris, and others. Based on this platform, the Vatican II Fathers in Gaudium et Spes proposed the creation of a body of the universal Church whose role would be "to stimulate the Catholic Community to foster progress in needy regions and social justice on the international scene" (Gaudium et Spes, No. 90) . In response to this vital call, Pope Paul VI on the 6th of January, 1967 with his motu proprio , Catholicam Christi Ecclesiam established the Pontifical Commission "Justitia et Pax"
Two months later, in Populorum Progressio, Paul VI succinctly stated of the new body that "its name, which is also its programme, is Justice and Peace" (No. 5) After a ten-year experimental period, Paul VI gave the Commission its definitive status with the Motu Proprio Justitiam et Pacem of 10 December 1976. When the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus of 28 June 1988 reorganized the Roman Curia, Pope John Paul II changed its name from Commission to Pontifical Council and reconfirmed the general line of its work.
OBJECTIVES AND MANDATE OF PONTIFICAL COUNCIL
Pastor Bonus defined the objectives and mandate of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in the following terms:
The Council will promote justice and peace in the world, in the light of the Gospel and of the social teaching of the Church (art. 142).
It will deepen the social doctrine of the Church and attempt to make it widely known and applied, both by individuals and communities, especially as regards relations between workers and employers. These relations must be increasingly marked by the spirit of the Gospel.
It will assemble and evaluate various types of information and the results of research on justice and peace, the development of peoples and the violations of human rights. When appropriate, it will inform Episcopal bodies of the conclusions drawn.
It will foster relations with international Catholic organizations and with other bodies, be they Catholic or not, that are sincerely committed to the promotion of the values of justice and peace in the world
It will heighten awareness of the need to promote peace, above all on the occasion of the World Day of Peace (art. 143).
It will maintain close relations with the Secretariat of State, especially when it deals publicly with problems of justice and peace in its documents or declarations (art. 144)".
In the very word of Prof. Ola Makinwa, “The root causes of crises in Africa are injustice and unfairness by those in government. Faced with this realities and considering the challenges posed by the Universal Church, African Church need not any soothsayer to tell her to brace up for action, hence, 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 region where there were none or where the structures were weak.
This mandate for the establishment of Justice and Peace Commission was reinforced by 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.
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 reorganization 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-coordinating as well as animating the provincial JDP commissions and at times the dioceses. The secretariat/committee serves as the resource center 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 JDP: The Catholic Church in Nigeria consist of nine Ecclesiastical Provinces. Each province is made up of dioceses. The JDP co-ordinator of each diocese along with the JDP commission members form the Provincial JDP. 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 JDPM: Each Bishop appoints a JDPM co-ordinator for the diocese to animate, mobilise, and keep the JDPM 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 JDPM: 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’ JDPM: 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.