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Onaiyekan Laments Emergence Of ‘Overnight’ Religious Leaders



Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, has lamented over the emergence of what he described as “overnight religious leaders” in the country.

Onaiyekan spoke yesterday at the first international conference by the inter-religious council of the University of Ilorin.

He lamented 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 stated.

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.

The cleric emphasised the need for training and retraining 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 globalisation has packed us into a global village, we are faced with the fact of plurality of religions, all of us calling on the 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 recognise 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, the secretary general of the Nigeria Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and JAMB registrar, Professor Is- haq Oloyede, called on Nigerians to concretize interfaith relationship to achieve the purpose for which religion was institutionalised, adding that multi-religious nature of Nigeria is a divine design of the Creator, to test whether mankind would be able to harmonise its differences or not.

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.