Late at night after being addressed by the Lagos State Chief of Staff, all protesters decided to take a knee as the National Anthem was played. Photo by Toby James Candids | Wikimedia Commons

October 8, 2020  Late at night after being addressed by the Lagos (Nigeria) State Chief of Staff, all protesters decided to take a knee as the National Anthem was played. Photo by Toby James Candids | Wikimedia Commons

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) stands in solidarity with our partners in the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria (PCN), applauding the courage and passion of the young people who have been leading popular protests against police brutality in Nigeria and lamenting the Nigerian military’s heavy-handed response to these peaceful demonstrations. We give thanks for organizations such as the Civil Society Coalition for Poverty Eradication (CISCOPE), which serve as catalysts for change by promoting broad public participation in the design, implementation, and monitoring of Nigeria’s public policies and programs.

For years, Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) has operated with impunity, despite accusations of systematic human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions, torture, arbitrary detentions, kidnappings, and extortion. Widespread and sustained protests broke out in Nigeria on October 8, after SARS officers were caught on video shooting an unarmed man.

On October 20, while more than 120,000 people worldwide watched via one protester’s Instagram livestream, unarmed protesters were shot and killed as they sang the national anthem and waved the Nigerian flag at Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos. Nigeria’s military has denied involvement in the massacre, but international human rights agencies have presented evidence to challenge this claim. In the chaos and outrage that followed the killings, incidents of looting and arson occurred, adding to the suffering Nigeria has experienced.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) welcomes the PCN’s prophetic statement urging the federal government to warn security agencies against using force to disperse protesters and calling for “an end to police brutality, extortion, abuse of power, and extrajudicial killing in every form.”

We affirm the PCN’s plea for security policy reforms that enable Nigeria’s security forces to carry out their duties within properly established legal bounds through improved training of police officers and provision of equipment appropriate to their roles. And we join the PCN in praying that public officials will respond constructively and meaningfully to the voices of peaceful protesters so that violence does not become perceived as the only means of prompting social change.

Recognizing that the people of Nigeria and the United States share a common desire for better living conditions, social justice, and genuine human security, let us join together in remembering all who have been affected by the recent popular uprisings in Nigeria and the U.S.A. Let us pray for God’s help in overcoming the challenges our nations currently confront so that all may enjoy life in fullness:

God of all people, all places, and all ages,

We come with heavy hearts, knowing that you desire your children to live together in peace, joy, and love. In Nigeria, we witness the strength of young people rising up against police brutality, and the violent attacks to quash their bravery. We watch with sadness and horror when violence surges against the innocent and human lives are torn apart.

You have shown us through Jesus Christ what it means to live with courage and seek your will for the world. The Holy Spirit surrounds and comforts all who mourn and empowers all who struggle for righteousness and justice.

So we commit ourselves to sharing and embodying your desires for a beloved worldwide community where all can live in peace. Be with our siblings in Nigeria who are working to create safety, peace, and justice in their nation and help us to walk with them in these turbulent times. We pray that your peace, presence, and power fill all who are suffering and that your justice reign in all places where there are outbreaks of violence.

In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.