Ada Menioneyewie in Abuja
The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Metropolitan See, His Eminence, John Cardinal OnaiyekanÂ has charged President Muhammdu Buhari to show more obligation on issues of social justice to achieve lasting peace in the country.
The cardinal also said top level religious leaders had a huge responsibility to lead the country in the way of peace and harmony, adding that it must be a sustained and intensified effort.
He stated this during the opening ceremony of the Cardinal Onaiyekan Foundation for Peace (COFP) 2018/2019 Fellowship Programme on â€œInterreligious Dialogue and Mediation Certificate Programmeâ€™â€™ in Abuja yesterday.
He said that the role of religious leaders in countering extreme religious views and ideologies, which were used to justify violent extremism and insurgency, could not be over-emphasised, saying the message of peace must also be brought to the lower levels of local religious leaders, which was one of the aims of the fellowship programme.
According to him, â€œfrom much of my life as a young man in Nigeria, we lived in relative peace, people moved around freely, there was not this kind of polarisation, and government was in control of things. But we have a situation now that gives a great cause for concern and looking down the line you are afraid for the younger generation.
â€œThe present situation of tension and conflict across our lines of diversities in Nigeria today needs us to make all the necessary effort to promote sincere dialogue, mutual respect and justice. That is why I am convinced that building interfaith cooperation and partnership are essential in advancing inclusive society; since peace can only be achieved when we understand, respect and accept our differences.
â€œAbove all, I believe that lasting peace also rests on our government doing its duty to show more commitment in addressing issues of social justice.â€™â€™
He further explained that the religious differences in the country should not lead to hatred rather Nigerians must learn to go beyond those differences and discover and celebrate the many common grounds of shared values and convictions.
He expressed the hope that participants would at the end of the programme return to their respective communities and replicate what they had learnt and keep spreading the message of peace, mutual respect and understanding.
The Cardinal added, â€œThe troublemakers will continue to do what they know how to do best that is create a situation of chaos and conflict, but those of us who believe in peace cannot keep quiet.
â€œIf we keep quiet the waves will be dominated by those who are warmongers.â€™â€™
Also, Sister Agatha Chikelue, Executive Secretary, COFP, in her remarks, said the purpose of the fellowship was to bring key religious leaders to explore cross cultural and religious dialogue and understanding.
She said the three year programme would help improve the participantsâ€™ capacities in interreligious dialogue and mediation.