Mr. Onaiyekan said community-based dialogue was more effective.
The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Onaiyekan, has called for a community-based inter-religious dialogue approach as part of measures to address insecurity and other vices in the country.
Mr. Onaiyekan made the call in Abuja on Saturday while addressing newsmen at a forum on promoting inter-religious dialogue, organised by the Inter-Religious Dialogue Office of the Abuja Catholic Archdiocese.
He said the community-based approach as a means of addressing the nation’s persistent inter-religious unrests could be more effective than the urban-based, national dialogue amongst leaders of the various religions.
“Dialogue at the community level will build confidence and trust amongst believers of different faith and in the long run reduce the tendency for religion-based violence,’’ the cardinal said.
He said administrators of all Catholic parishes in the country would be encouraged to initiate and sustain dialogue at the community level to help build peace at the basic level.
“The Catholic Church will also encourage the building of inter-faith relationships amongst students in the country’s Catholic institutions as part of measures to foster peace in the society,’’ Onaiyekan said.
He called on governments at all levels and proprietors of other private institutions in the country to encourage same as part of measures to build lasting peace in the country.
Earlier in his presentation, Cornelius Omonukhua, the Director of Mission and Dialogue, Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN), said both the Biblical and Qur’anic teachings encouraged inter-faith dialogue.
He dismissed insinuations in some quarters that a particular religion was against relations and dialogue with the faithful of other religions.
“Faithful of both Islam and Christianity had in the past suffered severe losses which resulted from differences in beliefs,’’ Omonukhua said.
He urged faithful of the two religions to remain steadfast in the teachings of their religions, asking them to forgive and forget whatever wrong might have arisen from previous confrontations.
“We need to be proactive in the pursuance of religious harmony and peaceful co-existence, even in the absence of conflict between Christians, Muslims and traditional worshippers in our country.
“Dialogue is a panacea to healing broken hearts, broken relationships and ugly memories of religious intolerance,’’ Mr. Omonukhua said.
On his part, Nura Khalid of the Apo Legislative Quarters Mosque stressed the need for leaders of religious congregations in the communities to work together.
“Total peace and religious harmony will be better attained if there will be a synergy of ideas, efforts and resources from the basic level,’’ he said.
The convener of the forum, Roland Nwakpuda, said the forum was put together to emphasise the need for continuous dialogue even in the absence of crisis.
He said the Abuja Catholic Archdiocese would not relent in promoting peace and tranquility through discussions with leaders and other faithful of the various religions in the FCT and beyond.
Many priests and Islamic clerics in Abuja attended the dialogue.