A call has been made for an African brand of Christianity and Islam that will embrace the values, and virtues, cultures and traditions of the people with the view of making them to love one another in the context of being the image of God.
This call was made by the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) and the Archbishop of Jos, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama while making a presentation on: Christian/Muslim Relationships in Nigeria and the Leadership Role of CBCN at the third Enugu Diocese Synod, held recently at Saint Bernard’s Seminary Enugu, Enugu State.
The CBCN President noted: “Knowing that not everybody is a Jew, Arab or Roman, we should work hard to discover the African brand of Christianity and Islam. There was a time when Christians prayed only in Latin but now, the Christians are able to pray in the local language.”
According to the Archbishop, every religion is influenced by some cultures and traditions and therefore; “If the Africans can rediscover the values of hospitality, love of community life, respect for elders and many others, we shall discover that ethnic wars will minimize greatly.”
Archbishop Kaigama therefore called on Christians, Moslems and adherents of African Traditional Religions not to just be content with the knowledge of their religions but have good knowledge of other religions and their tenets as this will help bring harmony and peaceful coexistence among all the people irrespective of their religious differences.
He admonished: “The Christian should take a bold step to study Islam while the Muslim should take bold step to study the Christian Religion. This knowledge of the facts of each other’s religion will go a long way to promote peaceful co-existence. It will make us live and accept instead of mere tolerance.”
He continued: “one can be a true Muslim at the same time be a true African. You as well can be a true Christian at the same time be a true African. Nothing should stop us just now from making the promotion of human dignity and value a basis for dialogue! Nothing is difficult for a willing heart. Believe the incredible and you will do the impossible.”
Archbishop Kaigama stressed the importance of dialogue between Christian and Muslims and other religious beliefs for the promotion of peaceful co-existence amongst the people of the country, stressing that the Catholic Church is committed to this concept through the activities of the Mission and Dialogue department of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) whose “ vision of dialogue is a peaceful world of Justice and final home in heaven;” while “the mission is to support the existing structures of the Church in their work of evangelization, promote the respect of human dignity, religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence in the world while the goal is to get as many people as possible involved in peace building and conflict resolution.
Stressing that the dialogue is not an optional but compulsory activity of the Church, Archbishop Kaigama however pointed out that while dialogue among people of different religions is not meant to replace the proclamation of the gospel, “so also the duty to proclaim the gospel must never preempt or negate the work of engaging in dialogue.
The local ordinary of Jos Archdiocese spoke extensively on the activities of CSN Mission and Dialogue department and how the department has been promoting CBCN dialogue work of evangelization in the country. According to him: “Attempts is made to build bridges, and to recognize and act as people who believe in the supremacy of God, to cooperate in the promotion of the good of all in Nigeria, and to cultivate the culture of respect for other people’s religion.”
Archbishop Kaigama commended the proposed National Dialogue by the Federal Government noting that “If properly conducted and devoid of the Nigerian spirit of wanting things our way, some solutions to the multidimensional criminality masquerading as Boko Haram, kidnapping, armed robbery, Ombatse, and needless other killings could be found.”