AFRICA/NIGERIA - Nigeria’s religious leaders stress the importance of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue for solving serious social problems

Thursday, 11 March 2004

Abuja (Fides Service)- “Being a good Christian or a good Muslim necessarily implies brotherly love, compassion, truth, justice and equality in relationships with others”. This was affirmed by the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria in a statement issued at the end of a six day Meeting on ecumenical and interreligious dialogue in Abuja 1-6 March. The Meeting which had the theme “Living our faith in these Difficult Times” brought together 50 Catholic Bishops, the Primate of the Anglican Communion, the chairman of the Nigeria Christian Association Archbishop Jasper Peter Akinola and secretary general of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs Dr. Lateef Adegbite.
In the statement the Catholic Bishops denounce recent acts of violence against innocent citizens in Plateau State, they say that no one should use religion to promote private interests and they express their support for collaboration between different religions at the service of human development.
The Bishops underline the importance of the imminent elections on 27 March and call on Christians to reflect on the lesson of the last election, marked by fraud
The President of the Nigerian Bishops’ Conference Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan , Archbishop of Abuja, affirmed “We are living in a precarious situation of calm. The symptoms of this situation are political crises and social disorders in many parts of the country. There would appear to be a basic problem of reciprocal trust between the government and the people, which makes the work of the government particularly difficult.” The Archbishop calls on the government to “extend the basis della political participation”.
In his address to the participants Dr. Lateef Adegbite, said it was important to reach a better understanding among religious leaders to make progress dialogue among faiths. As the representative of the Islamic community he also voiced concern for the difficult political and social situation in Nigeria today. He said he was sorry that most of Nigeria’s former presidents were Muslims who failed to keep the Koran precept which obliges governors to work for the wellbeing of the people.
In his address, Archbishop Peter Akinola said that a divided Church communicates a weak message to the world. The Papal Nuncio to Nigeria Archbishop Renzo Fratini, said that if the Church is to be prophetic and united it must announce with courage a message of peace and reconciliation. “The unity of the Church and the unity of Christians in Nigeria should be a sign for the whole of society and an example for our Muslim brothers and ” the Nuncio said. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 11/3/2004, righe 38 parole 441)