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RELIGIOUS HARMONY AND PEACE: SAVE THE FACE OF RELIGION
By BISHOP EMMANUEL ADE BADEJO (Catholic Bishop of Oyo)
 
There has been a harvest of accusations and counter accusations between Christians and Muslims since the eruption of bomb blasts and unfortunate killings began in Nigeria about a year or so ago. These we will all agree, have raised the tension in our politics and relationships but have not been very helpful. In Nigeria today, the fear of the Boko Haram is the beginning of wisdom if not the sum total of it. Although the culprit Boko Haram group claims to be a Muslim group, its activities have been condemned by Muslims too. The Nigerian government and security agencies have been working hard to find a solution to the national crisis in which up to 1,000 people have been killed mostly in Churches across the country but the bombings persist. May God rest the souls of the dead in peace. Bombs really have no way of discriminating between Muslims and Christians when they explode but the fact remains that Churches and Christians remain the more regular targets of the terrorist group.

As a result of the chaos many analysts lacking in depth, have concluded that all religion, rather than be a solution, is actually part of humanity\'s problem. I declare that they are comprehensively wrong. The problem is with man and his way of practicing religion. Religion, the submission of man to a divine being higher than himself is wholesome and helpful to humanity. Without it the world would become a chaotic jungle ruled by man\'s whims and caprices only. While all efforts are going on to fix Nigeria, it is important for us who care to save the very concept of religion from ridicule. But we must not wait until bombs explode before we put heads together to seek ways of dealing with the challenge. Prevention is not only better but also cheaper than cure. As Catholics, we recommend our strategy and commitment to peaceful coexistence and mutual respect to everyone. With all modesty for example, we Catholics accommodate in our schools, clinics and hospitals, adherents of all religions. We provide employment and training to all, irrespective of religion. We try to relate to others at all times with fairness, respect for the religion, rights and dignity of all without discrimination. We also invest in creating various platforms for dialogue and interaction among all religions at programs and forums organized by our church agencies. All these are not without resistance but we persist with great hope. All these are also backed up by goodwill greetings and messages from His Holiness the Pope at every occasion of Muslim festivals.Yet it still seems that we must do even more.

There is a fundamental basis for our inter-religious policy. It is our belief that all human beings are children of God and that Muslims and Christians, especially share the same basis of faith in the patriarch Abraham. Our motivation is found for example in the message to Muslims to mark the end of Ramadan (Id al Fitri 1432H./2011) by Jean Louis Cardinal Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue from the Vatican: \"Christians and Muslims, beyond their differences, recognize the dignity of the human person endowed with both rights and duties. They think that intelligence and freedom are indeed gifts which must impel believers to recognize these values which are shared because they rest on the same human nature\" (No.3). More than anything else, we believe firmly in the message of love for humanity which Jesus Christ lived and died for and that all true religion promote love, not death, for God and fellowmen.

As Catholics therefore we will continue to invest strongly in dialogue. I hereby urge all Traditional, Political and Religious Leaders to sincerely adopt the same policy of dialogue and harmonious coexistence and broaden their understanding of the challenges which face us all. Let us do whatever is possible to prevent the spread of this harvest of death and violence among our followers and people in Nigeria. Our children and future deserve no less! I call for honesty in dialogue, friendship and love among people of all religions for a false friend is more dangerous than a murderous enemy. God is not amused or honored by bloodletting among his children.

 

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