|Igbo leaders during a visit to a northern governor, Tambuwal|
Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan on Monday attributed religious disharmony in Nigeria to proliferation of ignorant ‘pastors and imams’ in the country.
He also raised the alarm over emergence of what he described as “overnight religious leaders” in Nigeria’s two main religions.
Cardinal Onaiyekan said this in Ilorin at the first international conference by the inter-religious council of the University of Ilorin.
He said that the overnight religious leaders preached errors and had led many people astray.
“We have a major problem these days in our country where it seems everyone can become a “religious leader” overnight, without any credentials. There are too many ignorant ‘pastors’ and ‘imams’ preaching errors and leading many people astray. Perhaps this is the price we have to pay for the freedom of religion that we enjoy. But surely a line should be drawn somewhere, especially when national order and harmony is at stake”, he said.
In his paper, titled, religious harmony and nation building, the cleric said that religious harmony is possible in Nigeria, and that without it, it would hardly be possible to build a strong and united nation.
He also canvassed training and restraining of religious leaders to ensure preaching that would encourage religious harmony among adherents of religions, particularly in local communities.
“For a long time, humanity lived in closed religious communities, with not much to do with others, who perhaps have their own faith, generally considered as erroneous and false. But now that globalization has packed us into a global village, we are faced with the fact of plurality of religions, all of us calling on then same One God. There is need for a radical theological updating of our ideas of God and our faith, in such a way that we can accommodate others, just
as God Himself has accommodated all of us.
This does not have to lead to doctrinal compromise or watering down of our convictions. It simply means that we recognize that God is far greater than our ideas of him and consequently than our religions, no matter how sublime we think they are”, he said.
Also speaking, Secretary General of the Nigeria Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and JAMB registrar, Professor Ishaq Oloyede, called on Nigerians to concretize interfaith relationship to achieve the purpose for which religion was institutionalized.
He added that multi-religious nature of Nigeria is a divine design of the Creator, to test whether mankind would be able to harmonize its differences or not.
Professor Oloyede, who said that religion is a powerful instrument that could be used to make or mar a society, added that its wrong application had led to wanton destruction of lives and property, misery, agony and untold hardship. “This however goes contrary to the expected role of religion in society, to develop and not to destroy; to elevate and not to relegate; and to promote not to demote the societal peace”, he said.
Earlier, Vice Chancellor of UNILORIN, Prof Sulyman Abdulkareem said that religious bigotry is one of the problems currently confronting Nigeria.
Said Prof Abdulkareem: “Without mincing words, it is a known fact that one of the major problems confronting our dear nation Nigeria, is religious bigotry, which has turned adherents of various faiths against one another.
“Although Nigeria is undoubtedly a religious nation, the degree of the citizens intolerance against one another is very high and this is why we are witnessing endemic religious crises that permeate various divides of this nation.
“When one ponders on why sustainable development has been elusive to Nigeria even after 58 years of it independence, the answer one gets from political scholars and analysts always revolves around bad governance.”