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Rise of the Muslim Bishop

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It was not for nothing that detractors called Archbishop Josiah Idowu Fearon of the Anglican Communion a Muslim Bishop: he is a bishop, no doubt; but obviously, he is not a Muslim, even though he knows the religion better than many Muslims.

Once His Grace was invited to one of those many unending Northern meetings to give a talk appropriate for the occasion. Given the choice of theme and topic, he chose what in the circumstance he considered was the most important one facing the peoples of the North – the disappearing unity, equality and essential oneness of its people. He chose to reunite them under God.

As he rose to begin his lecture in Transcorp Hilton’s Congress Hall, he raised his hands as if in prayer – and at that moment you could see it all: here was this unassuming, unpretentious and self-effacing tender of the vineyard who possessed nothing besides his ecclesiastical collar exuding such moral presence as dominated all that was before him.

He chose to give an exposition of the meaning of Surat at-Ikhlas, the 112th chapter of the Holy Quran.
Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim
Qul huwallahu ahad
Allahus samad ….

Beginning as every Surah does – in the Name of God, and in anticipation of His mercy and grace, Bishop Fearon articulated the Quranic concepts of the unity and the uniqueness of God; and drew the attention of the audience especially to the implications of this for them.

It was a long and meaningful talk; and here Fearon was the restorer of the Christian ethic and raison d’etre of love even in pain, and he was acting as a reminder to Muslims and enforcer of their forgotten duty of pan-Abrahamaic brotherhood and fellowship.

The matter needed delicate balancing, and Fearon stopped at the third verse. At any event, even at this, only the implicit courage of his religious convictions and absolute confidence in the rectitude of his own doctrinal position could have emboldened a Christian clergyman to dabble in the subtleties of Surat at-Ikhlas as vehicle for interfaith interface.

When he stopped but before he sat down he pointed out at me in the audience and said whoever wanted to know why he stopped at the third verse should ask me. I therefore wisely decided to leave before the end of the event but many waylaid me to ask why Bishop Fearon stopped where he did.

But it ought to have been obvious enough, I said. His Grace stopped at that unbridgeable gap – the theological blackhole that so demarcated the boundary that separated Christianity from Islam – at the very border of their belief system, between the tenets of Tawhid and the doctrine of Trinity.

And here only Fearon could have employed and exploited areas of real and uncompromising differences between the two faiths, nicely made his point without splitting any theological hair and compounded even Muslims without giving himself any airs.

In the circumstance, many might have wished that Fearon were some Levantine Nestorian, Oriental Orthodox Monophysite, or even a New World Unitarian; and could therefore have gone on to finish his exegesis without having to face this choice of extricating self from a spiritual quagmire.

But the significance of this was that he was none of these but could see a way of getting a little more light even from a source that so frontally disagreed with the foundation of Christianity.

But then that is the essential Fearon, a Christian clergyman who talks about Islam from a position of knowledge; and, more importantly, as someone able to combine dedication to his Christianity with genuine respect for Islam as a religion.

And this is what makes him so suitable for his self-imposed role of being the midwife of peace and understanding in tortured land of pain and misunderstanding.

Ordained a priest in 1971, Fearon had, in less than two decades, become the Bishop of Sokoto Diocese; and eight years later, he became the Bishop of Kaduna, where he established the Centre for the Study of Islam and Christianity. His interest in Islam is personal and deep-seated.

He said he was introduced to an intellectual interest in Islam by one of his teachers in school; and he immersed himself in Islamic studies in general, but, in particular, more specifically in order to study how the Qur’an presents the nature of Jesus Christ [AS].

This sojourn saw him completing the University of Jordan Arabic program and doing a master’s degree in Islamic Studies and Muslim-Christian relations.

A man of great Christian generosity, a patient listener and respecter of all persons, Fearon personifies the very love he was always trying to preach; because, first of all, he appeared incapable of refusing to give it. It had become his second nature to give.

A man of communion, for whom bridge-building has become a personal endeavour, he is committed to interfaith dialogue. Called Muslim Bishop by the detractors and Mr. Dialogue by admirers on both sides of the divide, Fearon has never hesitated or looked back despite opposition and deliberate misunderstanding.

Despite his great sympathy for Islam and genuine fellowship to Muslims, Fearon has often spoken of the need for change in Muslim attitude to Christians, especially in Northern Nigeria. People on both sides seem to be prisoners to history.

The undying appeal of a past-gone and non-existent dar al-Islam has continued to influence and shape Muslim attitude in a way that leaves the chasm of an uncharted territory between the reality of citizenship and an imagined dhimmitude.

While this may have been resolved constitutionally, the reality on the ground has not been addressed, perhaps because it requires an attitudinal change that has taken too long in coming. It is true that no matter how long it takes, true integration will only come if this is no longer an issue.

Fearon is being commissioned today as the Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council, a position that puts him in the Number Two administrative position in the entirety of the Anglican Communion. He will be the first African to occupy the post, and it is a great day for Nigeria that a man of uncommon achievement on the religious and social scenes has been recognised world-wide.

He is a recipient of several honours. In 2013 Fearon was awarded the Cross of St. Augustine for what the Archbishop of Canterbury said was “in recognition of his courage and vision in relentlessly promoting dialogue and peaceful reconciliation between Christians and Muslims, two major religions in a country that has suffered untold religious violence and insecurity.”

He is a member of the distinguished Canterbury Six Preachers, and has been awarded the Officer of the Order of the Niger, OON, national honour.

As Fearon resumes duty at the Lambeth Palace, there is the great danger that he will truly be missed; and it is therefore incumbent upon religious leaders and co-ordinators of faith-based groups in Nigeria to continue his good works.

While the secretary-generalship of the Anglican Consultative Council is a full-time job of great responsibility, Bishop Fearon will do well not to allow any of the structures or interfaith bridges he has built to be dismantled. It should prove possible that in the new office, he may be able to sell the idea of dialogue to the centre.

This is a matter that should be pursued with renewed zeal, with compassion and with the same sensitivity with which he has approached and executed his own attempts.

In the end, whether he is called a Muslim Bishop, Mr. Dialogue or anti (or pro-) gay bishop, the fact is that by dint of hard work and compassion, Fearon has created a phenomenon that can save a fractured world; and, by virtue of this, he has written to the top of the world.

Yet this true man of God has only got more self-effacing.
Nigeria is proud of him and of his achievement and we wish him the best of his Archbishopric and administering this wide world of Anglican Communion.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Princess Isamade JP

    September 16, 2015 at 8:27 pm

    My lord Bishop sir. God has promised to will never fail you nor forsake you in all that you do for mankind. Above all God be with you ,bless and keep you for the Anglican Communion. We are forever proud of you. Let’s LOVE AND HATE NOT.

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Editor Pick

Traditional court fines Robert Mugabe’s widow Grace five cows and two goats for ‘improperly’ burying her husband

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The widow of former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe has reportedly been fined five cows and two goats for ‘improperly’ burying her husband after he passed away.

A traditional court met on Thursday morning in the absence of Grace Mugabe, to reach their decision, a source close to the family said.

The former first lady, known as Gucci Grace because of her lavish spending lifestyle, is accused of burying her husband, who died in 2019 at the age of 95, in the courtyard of his home in Kutama.

Chief Zvimba, born Stanley Mhondoro, said Mugabe was supposed to be buried in a place chosen by his mother or immediate family. He then called for the body to be exhumed and reburied according to custom.

At the time of Mugabe’s death, there was a dispute between Grace Mugabe and President Emmerson Mnangagwa over where Robert should be buried.

Mnangagwa wanted Mugabe to be interred in the National Heroes Acre burial ground and national monument near Harare. While Grace wanted her husband to be buried in his hometown, away from the capital city.

Robert Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years had a strong grudge against his former vice president Mnangagwa, who was placed in charge of the country after Mugabe was forced to resign in November 2017.

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Editor Pick

I was number one in class: Eight lies parents told you when you were a kid

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Being a parent is a tough, but enjoyable lifetime experience. A mother will always be quick to throw in a creative, well-placed lie to either keep a child in check or avoid a question she would rather not answer – questions like where do babies come from or why is Uncle Ben’s tummy so big, could he be pregnant? Mothers are brilliant at deception. That’s why they can easily manage children.

Here are 8 lies parents, over the decades, have dished out to their children:

  1. Cartoons sleep at night

Kids love cartoons. Sometimes, getting them to sleep at night is impossible when a favourite a cartoon programme is on. So, a mother tells them that cartoons characters also sleep.

  1. The chicken wants to be eaten

Lying to a child could be necessary if the little one is to feast on meat. So, a mother would say that chickens always want to be eaten as it gives them joy to be chosen as food. So, toto, here’s some chicken wings, go ahead make the kuku happy! That prevents kids from breaking down into tears if they really liked the kuku when it was alive! To make them eat cabbages, a mother would say without batting an eyelid that, “Eat the mboga my son, when it gets to the stomach, it will turn into meat!”

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  1. You have 10,000 words a month

You have only 10,000 words to use per month is the perfect ‘weapon’ to silence talkative kids who yap beyond their “monthly quota,’ especially kama kuna wageni (if there are visitors) to whom they might reveal the family secret with an embarrassing question like, “Mummy mbona daddy ali kuchapa jana?”

  1. Kids are bought from supermarkets

Kids always ask where their week-old sibling has come from: God, soko, tumepewa na aunt Julia and the supermarket are good answers to shut them up.

  1. Kissing will give you worms

This only works for a couple of years until the little brats grow into teenagers and discover that doing with the lips what the hands do has its pleasures.

  1. Mum and dad play at night

Mum, who really had a helluva hell of a time last night, would explain to the inquisitive toto that, “Those funny noises you heard coming from our bedroom last night were just mummy and daddy playing.” And in a way she might not be lying. Really!

  1. I was number one in class

All parents used to perform extremely well in school. They will then add, “Sijui hii number last yako umetoka nayo wapi, hii sio damu yetu!”

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Editor Pick

She wants to sleep with you if she says any of these

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A man who’ll never be invited to the world of secret love making is the drunkard. If you regularly get drunk then trash talk people, male or female, forget about being called to the side and offered secret love making because you my friend is a risky investment, sounds funny right? But it’s true.

On the other hand, If you’re sober and women

consider you a potential Secret Lover; they will drop you hints.

Everytime you hear women say the following just know its a compliment and they see you as a prospective cheat partner.

“You’re so quiet” or “why are you so quiet?”
“You don’t have many friends do you?”(of which you agree with “I do my things alone”, or “I don’t want people judging me” if she asks why you’ll be judged tell her you sometimes do crazy things)
“You look like a good guy” (of which you should disagree with “if only you knew”, or something like that)
If you seduce a committed woman or just any taken woman, she’ll tell you “It’s wrong”. Your job is not to convince her it’s not wrong. Yours is to convince her NO ONE WILL FIND OUT. To women, to be good = to appear good. Women are creatures of appearance.

How people perceive a woman is how she perceives herself. If she can do the most debased stuff and people still think she’s pure then she’s pure. You capitalize on her nature by always saying “No one has to know”.

It may appear to cheesy, but Always repeat such slogans like “A gentleman never kiss and tells” and “Stolen sweets are best” etc.

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