Abuja—The Archbishop of the Abuja Arch Diocese, John Cardinal Onaiyekan has said that the relationship between Christians and Muslims depends on what goes on in the various faiths.
Cardinal Onayeikan spoke in Abuja at the opening of a three-day conference, organised by the Vienna, Austria-based, International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID) aimed at creating effective platforms towards promoting inter-religious understanding among Muslim and Christian communities in Nigeria.
According to him: “We have had challenges and we should be able to face those challenges. Our relationship between Christians and Muslims depends on what goes on in the various faiths.
“God did not make a mistake when he brought all if us together in this country and the basic message is that nobody should think you have a monopoly of God. That this God belongs to all of us therefore while I hold unto my faith very strongly, there should be …we are all working sincerely trying to do the right thing.
“We must be sincere with ourselves, respect one another, live in peace and harmony. Of course, there will be other people who do not agree to that but that does not stop the rest of us from living together in peace and government should handle those who are trouble makers. This is where the government comes in. it is not our responsibility as religious leaders to deal with criminals.”
“We have been hearing about Boko Haram; we have been hearing about Niger Delta militants and others and it probably seems to be taken for granted that all we need is better arms, better trained soldiers and we shall solve the problem.
“I am afraid it has never worked that way anywhere in the world. At some point, after the soldiers have finished their job, human beings must seat around the table and talk. There is nobody that you cannot talk with because everybody is a human being – the child of a mother and maybe the sweetheart of a woman.
“Our own Boko Haram has not taken 52 years. We are only talking of three, four years. Surely, it is not too late to now move seriously in line of dialogue. That does not mean impunity. That does not mean that nobody cares about atrocities committed.
“What it does mean is that no matter the atrocities, it is always possible for human beings to see one another as brothers and sisters.”
“The Federal Government should be prepared to dialogue with everybody. Very often, the military reaction or response can prepare the way for a fruitful dialogue, but you must keep dialogue constantly in mind. My fear is that we are not thinking of dialogue now. Things can go hand in hand.
“And dialogue is not something you do in front of cameras. Generally, it is a bit quiet, in the background; there is not much noise and even when the whole thing is over, people, who were involved in the dialogue, or that prepared the way would not even be seen or heard.
“There are many people in Nigeria who wants to talk for peace. I have always said that government should encourage those who want to help dialogue with Boko Haram instead of linking anybody who wants to talk to them as Boko Haram which is what I am seeing. It is only those who are close to them who can talk to them.
“If you take Boko Haram for example, I have always said that government should encourage Muslims who want to talk to them to do so instead of seeing everybody who has any link with Boko Haram as terrorist which is what seems to be what I am seeing.
“It is only people who are closed to them who can talk to them and that needs to be consciously promoted because you can never kill every Boko Haram member and even if you do, it is not in the interest of Nigeria to kill our brothers and sisters.
”We can never kill off every Boko Haram and even if we do it is not right to kill off our brothers and sisters we must find a way if getting them back as brothers and sisters.”
In his remarks, the President, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Rev. Supo Ayokunle, charged both Christians and Muslims to endeavour to live in peace and harmony with each other, while pleading with the Federal Government to engage militants and restive youths in some parts of the country in dialogue.
Noting that there is no cause for Christians and Muslims fighting each other, however, charged that, “As religious leaders, we must find sustainable solution to issue of religious conflict and challenges in the country.
Ayokunle, who was represented by Rev. Oyewole Onifade, noted that, “I want to say here categorically that Christians and Muslims have no cause to be at loggerhead. We talk about peace building as this, it is very, very important.
He said that “It is time for Christians and muslims to work to together and understand one another in the interest of peace and harmony,” adding, “We must tolerate and accept one another in the interest of peace and love.”