Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
By Muhammad Bello
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said the search for religious peace and reconciliation are global issues, which are not peculiar to Nigeria.
He spoke Saturday in Lagos during the dedication of the House on the Rock Cathedral performed by President Goodluck Jonathan who enjoined Nigerians to demonstrate abiding love for one another, and not hostility or violence.
In his keynote address, the former British prime minister recalled the difficulty encountered in transforming his own country, saying the task of national transformation anywhere in the world requires the undoubting efforts of committed leaders.
Blair’s wife, Cherie, accompanied him to the occasion. The former British prime minister wished the Jonathan administration well in its struggle to transform the lives of Nigerians, many of whom, he noted, are still poor.
Recalling his days in office, he said: "In getting things done, the hardest thing I found is having an idea and transforming that idea into reality," pointing out that "making it happen and getting it done was tough."
Blair, who founded the Faith Foundation, said investment in the people, their health, education and shelter would help greatly in moving the nation forward.
He expressed optimism in the ability of the country to overcome its current challenges of insecurity, saying the quest for religious peace and reconciliation are global issues that are not peculiar to Nigeria.
The former prime minister cited the example of Jerusalem and the Middle East where there is so much conflict, saying he would "love to see the day that Jerusalem will not only be a holy place but a centre of love for all."
President Jonathan noted that the country had passed through many rough times, especially during the military era, and that intercessory prayers of religious faithful had helped to deliver it.
He said the transformation agenda of his administration was no magic wand that will wipe away all the challenges confronting the country.
"The great task before us as a nation is to demonstrate unfailing love wherever we are and to show that underlying our faith and belief is peace and harmony, not hostility or violence," the president said.
He added: "The task of achieving our greatest potential as a nation lies in the collective effort of every individual and community, underpinned by love. If we all do our part, no matter how small, the Nigeria we crave will be a reality."
Jonathan described the cathedral as an achievement of science, technology and the presence of God in the lives of Nigerians.
Quoting severally from the Bible on the virtues of building the cathedral and its spiritual relevance, the president commended Reverend Paul Adefarasin, the Metropolitan Senior Pastor of All House on the Rock, for his vision.
Delivering his homily, Adefarasin, who described Blair as his mentor in the area of inter-faith, to which he admits he is committed, decried a situation where the rich gets richer and the poor gets poorer.
He urged government to uphold equity and equality among citizens within the ambit of the rule of law, expressing the hope that Nigeria would be great.
The Rock Foundation, founded in 1994, is a faith-based charity whose ideals of promoting education, providing healthcare to indigent citizens and providing restitution to those in need, the building embodies and symbolise.
President Jonathan was presented with a sword by the church. The Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr. Olusegun Aganga; the Chaplain of the Presidential Villa Chapel, Rev. Obioma Onwuzurumba; Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission, Mr. John Opara, and his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, accompanied the president to the occasion.
At the occasion was also prominent chartered accountant Chief Akintola Williams, among others.