From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Archbishop Emeritus of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, has said there is hope for a peaceful future for a multi-religious Nigeria.
Onaiyekan stated this while delivering catechesis with the theme: ‘The Eucharist Summit of Our Christian Life and Source of All Our Hope’ during the International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest, Hungary.
Onaiyekan told the audience that Nigeria has a population of about 200 million people, much bigger than Hungary with its 10 million population.
The former President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) added that the large population of Nigeria is split almost equally 50/50 between Muslims and Christians, stating that in that regard, Nigeria is unique in that no other nation has as many Christians and as many Muslims living together in the same country.
Onaiyekan further said it was heart-warming that Muslims and Christians have been able to coexist in the country as citizens of the same nation despite challenging and complex situations.
He disclosed that while the vast majority of Nigerian Muslims were happy to live in peace with their Christian neighbours, there were some violent Muslim jihadist elements that aimed at making every Nigerian Muslim, by all means, including violence and force.
“We congratulate ourselves at the fact that we have been able to survive together as citizens of the same nation. It is not surprising therefore that Muslim-Christian relations in Nigeria are rather challenging and complex. While the vast majority of Nigerian Muslims are happy to live in peace with their Christian neighbours, there are some violent Muslim jihadist elements that aim at making every Nigerian Muslim, by all means, including violence and force.
“But as Christians, we are standing up in defence of our right to religious freedom, claiming our rights, guaranteed under our constitution, not only to maintain our Christian faith but also to propagate this faith to all Nigerians, by all means, except violence and force.
“In our prevailing circumstances, we know that we cannot afford to take our faith for granted. It is our greatest gift from God that we value and guard. On the whole, there is hope for a peaceful future for a multi-religious Nigeria,” Onaiyekan said.
Onaiyekan who noted that the conference was supposed to have taken place in 2020, but had to be postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, told the audience that in everything, they must thank God.
“And we thank God even for the COVID-19. For those who have ears to hear, God certainly has been talking to us through this pandemic. The most important message is that we all belong together.
“The core of the Eucharistic message is the love of God for all humanity. From this point of view, there is an eminently Eucharistic component to the global experience of COVID-19. We pray that God will liberate us from the pandemic without too much delay, while we pray for the souls of the many thousands, perhaps even millions, who have died. May their souls rest in peace,” Onaiyekan prayed.
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