By SAM EYOBOKA
TO tackle the multi-dimensional security challenges facing the nation, Prefect Emeritus, Congregation for Divine Worship and the Disciple of the Sacraments, Vatican City, His Eminence Francis Cardinal Arinze has stressed the need for a religious dialogue that will facilitate better understanding among the different religious groups in the country and promote peace, unity and national growth.
Speaking on Monday at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, NIIA in Lagos at a public presentation of a book in his honour titled; “Cardinal Francis Arinze: The Church pathfinder of dialogue and communion,” he said the book will provide an opportunity for students to know what the Catholic Church is doing in the area of religious dialogue.
Arinze believes that religious dialogue does not necessarily mean discussing with Musl-ims, Buddhists, Hindus, but “meeting people of other religious convictions; listening to them, (which some find very difficult), and they listening to us; we hope and we working together with a view to helping the street children in Indonesia or people suffering from leprosy.”
According to him, in one of his numerous visits he saw a hospital run by Muslims and Christians to treat leprosy patients without discussing religious beliefs, noting “that is religious collaboration…we join hands together to make this world a better place to live.”
Earlier in his keynote address, the guest lecturer and president of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, CBCN, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama said there is the urgent need for Muslims and Christians to develop a more positive view of each other’s religion for the peace of the nation.
According to him, “some Christians are sometimes guilty of hasty generalizations because they conclude falsely that be-cause some Muslim fanatics adv-ocate violence and terrorism, Islam itself is a terrorist religion. Christians too have their share of militant fanatics. Just as Muslims do not want to be branded as terrorists, so do Christians take offence if they are referred to by some Muslims as un-believers or kafir, feeling that sharia is being applied without sensitivity to Christians.”
Kaigama enjoined religious leaders to be forthright in the condemnation of violence and reject it in its entirety even if committed by their adherents, noting “it is falsely believed by some fanatics that the com-mitting of crimes in the name of religion is an expression of religious fervour and an automatic guarantee for heaven if they die or kill others in the process. This is wrong theology, either in Islam of Christianity.”
Instead of dissipating energy in asserting superiority, he argued, Muslims and Christ-ians “should concern them-selves with the critical social issues that affect Nigerians, such as human trafficking, unemployment, hunger, ignorance and poverty, in order to realize the Millennium Development Goals set by the UN.
“Christians and Muslims must unite to fight secularism, which desecrates and cheapens life by acts of abortion, homosexuality, and unethical scientific experiments,” he enjoined, noting that the things that unite the two faiths are many, asking “why always dwell on what divides them?
“The Christian says to a fellow Christian, ‘peace be with you’ and a Muslim says to a fellow Muslim ‘assalam-alakum’. We can exchange these greetings of peace with sincerity beyond the narrow confines of the two religions. This will signal the building of a happier and socially integrated Nigeria,” he argued.