For the first time in 34 years, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has elected a Pentecostal pastor as its president and he has vowed to fight corruption and religious intolerance - writes Lekan Otufodunrin.
The Rev Ayo Oritsejafor, national president of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, defeated the incumbent CAN president, the Rev John Onaiyekan of the Roman Catholic Church, by 66 votes to 38 at the national executive committee elections in Abuja earlier this month (July 2010).
The election of Oritsejafor was then ratified by the 302-member national assembly of the Christian association in Abuja, the capital city.
The new CAN president is a founder and general overseer of the Word of Life Bible Church located in Warri, in the southern Niger Delta region of the country.
"I pledge my commitment to peace and unity and we will continually draw attention to the perennial religious crises in northern Nigeria until we break the vicious cycle of violence and victimisation," Oritsejafor pledged in his inaugural address.
He lamented the high levels of corruption in Africa's most populous country, which according to him translate into poor education and deteriorating infrastructure, and he urged churches to challenge inequalities in the nation's policies.
"There must be no doubt in your minds, my brethren, that if we are bold and courageous and prepared to speak truth to our times and to ourselves, we shall be the arrowhead of the changes that Nigeria and Nigerians call out for," said Oritsejafor.
"We must be as wise as serpents, so that the voice of the Church is listened to and heard with clarity and without equivocation."
Congratulating the new CAN president, Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan urged church leaders to support the government in eradicating corruption in the country.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]