Brief History of JDPC
"The spirit of the Lord is upon me, for He has anointed me and sent me to bring good news to the poor. To proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind; to set the oppressed free and announce the Lord's year of favour." (Lk. 4:18)
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 defense of fundamental human rights, the Church Apostolate cannot be improvised.
Thus, on the 6th of January in 1967, as a practical measure to concretize 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 set up a Catholic Welfare Commission on an experimental basis. The purpose of its establishment was to awaken in the people of God full awareness of their mission.
The structure and framework of this Commission was given in the motu proprio, Catholicam Christi Ecclesiam. This Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace became an organ through which the Church attends to issues related to justice, peace, development and human rights. As the Gospel found roots in the local and particular Churches, so also was this organ established in various local and particular Churches (Dioceses).
Hence, what we now know as Justice, Development and Peace/Caritas, (created by the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria in 1976), was known in the 1960s as Catholic welfare commission.
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.
The Structures of JDPC
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 concretizes 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 good news.
To effectively disseminate the good news, 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.
JDPC in the Nigerian Church
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.' It was in swift response to the 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 was already in operation with different names in almost all the dioceses in Nigeria.
The Nigerian Catholic Bishops Conference was prompted 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.'
Justice Development and Peace Commission in Nigeria, thus represents the ministry of service of the Catholic Church. It is aimed at promoting human development through a holistic approach with a focus on the following areas;
- Gender and women empowerment
- Conflict Resolution / Alternative Dispute Resolution
- Human Rights
- Legal Aids.
- Research and Policy Advocacy.
- Good Governance and Democracy.
- Micro Finance.
- Relief/ Disaster and Emergency Aid.
- Training and Education for Development.
Implication of JDPC in the Nigerian Church
"I was hungry and you gave me food, thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your home, naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me." (Mathew 25:35-36)
"Indeed, religion can never be separated from life and the realities of life that exist in the society. It is not enough to recall principles, state intentions, point to crying injustices and utter prophetic denunciations; the words will lack real weight unless they are accompanied for each individual by a livelier awareness of personal responsibility, and by effective action." (Prof. Obiora Ike).
Addressing the implication of JDPC in the Nigerian church therefore, I wish to particularly look at the efforts of the Catholic Institute for Development, Justice and Peace (CIDJAP) in the Catholic diocese of Enugu as a case study. CIDJAP with the support of the bishop of Enugu diocese has influenced the life of the people both in the church and the society in the following areas;
1. Orphanages: The Church in Enugu can boast of orphanages today where motherless babies and orphans are cared for. Through these homes, many lives are saved today.
2. Women Training Centers: The church is also involved in the training of women in various fields to empower them in self reliance and entrepreneurship through small and medium scale businesses. Today we have about twenty women training centers spread all over the deaneries of Enugu diocese.
3. Schools: The church has built schools at all levels; Nursery, Primary, Secondary and Tertiary schools, to liberate people from mental poverty. Today, the diocese has over one thousand schools at all levels. These schools have produced great men and women in our society, hence, contributing immensely to the growth and development of our society.
4. Skill Centers: The Church has skill centers where our youths are trained in different skills to be self employed. An example is the "Olu Aka Di Nma" Skills acquisition centre. These youths are often empowered with loans to assist them establish their own business.
5. Housing Estate: The church has also provided low cost houses for the poor masses through its housing estates like "Nwanne di na mba" housing estate.
6. Witnessing to Widows: The Church has not neglected the widows in its work of evangelization. Many rules have been made in the diocese to assist and liberate widows from long years of mourning and obnoxious practices.
7. Human Rights Activities: The Church has always been involved in human rights activities at all levels with a diocesan legal office at CIDJAP to solve people's problems. The church is aware that people can be discriminated against, in law or in fact, on account of origin, culture, sex or religion. Hence, through CIDJAP, the Church promotes social rights, economic rights, political rights, cultural rights, ecological rights and universal human rights, both in its teachings and in practice.
8. Prisons: The world of Prisons has numerous cases of awaiting trials, cases of people criminalized by the Justice System, mentally sick inmates, nursing mothers, etc. The Church through the CIDJAP PRISON'S WELFARE has contributed immensely in ameliorating the sufferings of inmates and has obtained freedom for many.
9. Caritas Desk: Food items are frequently distributed to needy persons and hospital bills paid for many indigent sick persons, through the Caritas desk. Also, displaced persons, migrants and victims of religious persecutions are taken care of and rehabilitated.
10. Youth Empowerment: The Church has also been involved in numerous youth empowerment programmes that practically make the youth self reliant, like the Coal City Cab (Taxis) and Tricycles (Kekenapep). Many Youths are today proud owners of these vehicles and tricycles.
11. Conflict Management and Alternative Dispute Resolution: The church practically spearheads the settlement of conflicts, the prevention and management of conflicts, through marriage counseling, preaching at the altar and the different aspects of the priest's works in the parish.
12. Protection of Life: This is found in the teachings that promote a culture of life, protection of infants, unborn and defenseless children. The Church is at the fore front of the battle against the use of contraceptives and the legalization of abortion.
Indeed, CIDJAP Enugu is not relenting in her efforts and these works are translated in many dioceses through many organs related to the Justice, Development and Peace Commission in the Nigerian church.
However, looking back at the impact of JDPC in the Nigerian church, one can only say that we have not done enough. There is still much work to be done and yet more challenges lie ahead. These challenges are; population growth, climatic changes, urbanization, natural and man- made disasters, religious conflicts, politically motivated poverty, etc.
The world is growing everyday both in population and in technology. The church must not be left behind in this development and growth so as to meet up with the foreseen challenges that would constitute future obstacles in her efforts towards the eradication of poverty and injustice.
Thus, the implication of JDPC in the Nigerian Church lies in the identification of challenges on the one hand and the intensification of efforts on the other hand, in the areas identified by creating more funds for charity and sponsoring more projects that would serve this need and purpose. Her efforts must also include intensifying its struggles and fights against corruption, abuses and bad governance.