Young Nigerians leaving Catholic Church for Pentecostalism

An increasing number of young Nigerian Christians are reportedly leaving the Catholic Church amid the rise of Pentecostal and Evangelical churches towards the end of the 20th century.

(REUTERS / Afolabi Sotunde.)Worshippers arrive at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Nigeria's capital Abuja, June 24, 2012.

Susan Onyedika, 22, was born in a Catholic family in Lagos and was active in her church's activities. However, she encountered doubts about her faith during her teenage years and started comparing her religious practices and beliefs to that of Pentecostal Christians, the Catholic Herald detailed.

"When I started having that curiosity at 15, I asked questions but I was always shut off. They'd tell me to just believe it," said Onyedika. "I asked my Mum and she can't really explain anything. She just beats around the bush like every other person. She says: 'Just accept it. It's always been like that.' "

Onyedika said she felt a need to understand the Bible, but the Catholic Church does not provide ways to help her with that. She also noted that Pentecostals have a different way of praying, and started having issues with praying through Mary because she felt that she could talk to God directly. She gradually attended Pentecostal fellowships and eventually left the Catholic Church.

Victor Ejechi, 25, told the publication that he used to enjoy the Catholic Mass and catechism classes when he was a child. However, the lack of answers to his questions about the rosary, sacrament of confession, and speaking in tongues led him to leave the Church when he was in secondary school.

Onyedika and Ejechi's concerns are not unique among young Nigerian Christians. In fact, such questions and doubts form a big part of the challenge for the Catholic Church in the country.

Fr. Gabriel Ezema said the Catholic Church was well equipped for these questions, but a lot of people fail to make use of the available resources. He said there are several spiritual organizations that cater to young people's needs, but not all join these groups and end up drifting away when they start having fellowship with Pentecostals.

Another factor that is contributing to the decline of the Catholic Church in Nigeria is the weakening of the religious faith in the Western world, according to Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto. He said the trend caused Islam to ascend and evangelical Christianity in the country to go the other way, the Catholic News Service reported.

Fr. Kukah said the influence of the Catholic Church in Nigeria is gradually decreasing because they can no longer appeal to Catholic nations to help them with their church projects. He noted, however, that ambassadors of Muslim countries are very supportive of Islamic celebrations and related projects.