Excommunication for non-voters: Nigerian bishop decrees
A Nigerian bishop has issued a pastoral letter warning his flock that it is their "sacred duty" to vote in the upcoming national elections and those failing to register will not be allowed to receive holy communion.
Bishop Francis Okobo, who oversees the diocese of Nsukka in the south eastern state of Enugu, authorised the circulation of a bulletin in Catholic churches on Sunday telling the faithful that they had to make their vote count in this year's elections, according to a report cited by Ekklesia.
"Whoever has not collected the voter's card after February 7 has automatically alienated himself or herself from the community, the Church, the nation and will not be allowed to receive the holy communion," the diocesan bulletin warned.
Nigerians are due to elect their president, state governors and lawmakers in polls that should mark the first handover from one democratic government to another in Africa's most populous nation and biggest oil producer.
"You might have often heard ... that the election has been concluded, that your votes will not count and that you will definitely be wasting your precious time if you go out to vote," the bulletin continued.
"The Catholic Secretariat of Nsukka wishes to inform you that (this is) calculated political propaganda aimed at creating despondency in you so that they will steal away an unmerited victory.
"You are reminded and requested to quickly get yourselves registered, if you have not done that, because it is your civic responsibility and a sacred duty."
The news comes as others in Nigeria such as students face severe sanctions if they do not revalidate their voters' cards.
Governor Sam Egwu of Ebonyi State, has said students of voting age could have their education terminated and civil servants who fail to register will not be paid a salary in January.
No voter's card, no communion: church (Sydney Morning Herald, 17/1/07)
No vote, no communion, says Catholic bishop (Ekklesia, 16/1/07)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Bishop Francis Okoba (Catholic-Hierarchy)
Nigerian priests to head for Queensland (CathNews, 14/7/06)
17 Jan 2007