Most Rev. Josiah Idowu-Fearon: Commitment to inter-faith peace

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IN 2013, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, conferred the award of Cross of St Augustine on the Bishop of Kaduna Diocese, Anglican Communion, the Most Rev. Josiah Idowu-Fearon.

The announcement by Welby said that the award 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.”

Most Rev. Josiah Idowu-Fearon

Most Rev. Josiah Idowu-Fearon

The Archbishop of Canterbury, in a personal letter written to Most Rev. Idowu-Fearon told him that one of the awards that he is able to grant to people who have given long and exceptionally distinguished service to the Anglican Communion is the Cross of St. Augustine. He underlined his choice unambiguously:

“It would give me great pleasure to honour you by presenting you with the cross of St Augustine”, Welby stated, adding further: “Your extensive service to the Anglican Communion as a whole in the area of Christian-Muslim dialogue, and your ministry in Nigeria promoting dialogue and reconciliation between Christians and Muslims, has been tireless, and you have displayed courage and vision in often the most difficult circumstances.”

In Northern Nigeria, especially, where the Most Rev. Idowu-Fearon’s work is well known, the award was very well celebrated. In interviews and writings, this remarkable servant of God has consistently used his spiritual and intellectual resources to preach words of peace and reconciliation between and amongst religions and faith groups and the background for his work comes from his remarkable knowledge of Islam. Most Rev Idowu-Fearon holds a doctorate degree in Sociology and a Postgraduate Diploma in Education from the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria; an MA in Islamic Theology from Birmingham University as well as a BA Theology from Durham University, both in the UK.

This background gives him the broadness of vision to understand Islam, Muslims and our concerns, and from his deep spiritual convictions, he has been able to work with honesty, courage and commitment to inter-faith peace and harmony, in the context of the serious crises that we have witnessed in our region of Nigeria over the past few decades. Most Rev Idowu-Fearon belongs to a distinguished cast of clerics like John Cardinal Onaiyekan and Most Rev Ignatius Kaigama, the Catholic Archbishop of Jos, amongst several others, who consistently make that effort to promote the tendency towards peace and reconciliation in Northern Nigeria.

This month, July 2015, the Most Rev. Josiah Idowu-Fearon is taking up a new appointment as the Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion. He was selected out of an initial field of applicants for the job, from Oceania, Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas.

The person specification for the role of Secretary-General had indicated that the next occupant of the position was expected to “assist the Communion to become even more faithful to, and engage in, God’s mission of reconciliation. The successful candidate will be a committed Christian, a person of deep faith and prayer, a visionary ambassador of Christ and his Church, a bridge-builder to effect healing amongst the churches of the Anglican Communion, a creative and imaginative thinker, and an inspirational leader who will help to renew witness and effectiveness of the Communion, its structures, and its programmes.”

It was remarkable that given that extensive list of criteria, they found OUR OWN Most Rev Idowu-Fearon the BEST candidate for the position! When the announcement came Dr. Idowu-Fearon said: “I am excited to take up the post of Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion, and to continue the fine work undertaken by my predecessor in this office. It is a privilege to be honoured and recognised by the Communion to serve at this level.

I look forward to serving the Anglican family with my future colleagues at the Anglican Communion Office and the Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury”. And in response to the appointment, the Chair of the Anglican Consultative Council, Bishop James Tengatenga, warmly stated that: “I am delighted that Bishop Josiah has accepted the position. He will bring a vital new perspective on the Anglican Communion, its life and ministry. His experience and expertise in Christian-Muslim relations is particularly welcome at this time”.

The Most Revd Dr.Idowu-Fearon has been the Bishop of Kaduna since 1998 where he doubled as Director of the Kaduna Anglican Study Centre. Before then, he served as Bishop of Sokoto, Warden at St Francis of Assisi Theological College in Wusasa, and Provost of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Kaduna. He is an Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON). But most central to his work is his love for Northern Nigeria that he tirelessly worked for.

I sent him a belated text last week to congratulate him on his appointment, while noting the work he did for inter-faith relationship in Northern Nigeria. He replied me thus: “Dear Modibbo, thank you so much for your very encouraging words. We must stand for our region and people, promote the ideals that unite us so we can also develop. Keep praying for me and play your own little part. Na godeSalam. Fearon”.

That was the man! I have imagined just how Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto and late Premier of Northern Nigeria, would have been delighted at the Most Rev Idowu-Fearon’s appointment! He would have seen and appreciated the value in the fact that a son of Northern Nigeria has been given a position of trust and leadership by one of the most important religious bodies in the world, the Anglican Communion.

That would have been an indication of the steady progress we have made as well as a reflection of the moral and spiritual richness of our people. In the Most Rev. Josiah Idowu-Fearon, we are giving the world a true ambassador of the very best of all that is good about Northern Nigeria and our country, Nigeria, and I feel really proud of his accomplishments!

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