Today, Sunday 11th August , 2019, in the Catholic calendar is the 19th Sunday of the Year in Ordinary Time and our second reading from Hebrew chapter 11 among other things speaks of the solid and strikingly obedient faith of Abraham, who, in compliance with God’s directive was willing to sacrifice his only son Isaac, but was subsequently provided a ram by God to sacrifice in place of his son (cf. Gen. 22:1-19). The Jews believe and tell this story. The Muslim feast of Eid-El-Kabir which falls on this Sunday today, is to also commemorate this event of Abraham’s deep faith and unquestioning obedience to God’s directive to sacrifice his only son.

There is so much that Christians, Jews and Muslims have in common. If only we look and think well and free ourselves from the effects of religious indoctrination, we could avoid crises that brew and consume lives in the name of religion. In different parts of the world and especially in Nigeria, religious issues are sometimes exaggerated and heightened to the extent that they assume different dimensions, resulting in needless violence and the destruction to lives and property. There is unfortunately so much religious propaganda or the attempt to assert religious superiority or to wield more religious influence over the others. We should rather approach religious issues and practise religion with more positive dispositions.

I humbly call on all Nigerian Christians to wish our fellow Nigerian Muslims a “Happy Eid-El-Kabir”. Nigerian Christians should expect the same genuine happy wishes from Muslims at Christmas or Easter. Enlightened religious values should lead people of religion to always respect and protect the interests and property of one another. But we sometimes prefer to tear at each other, wounding and destroying interpersonal trust which results in retarding in no small measure the growth and progress of our nation where Christian and Muslim adherents form the majority of the population. If we realize that Christians and Muslims belong to the “Abrahamic faith”, and are all children/servants of God, the resources we have will be shared equitably, political offices and economic or social opportunities will be made available on merit to all without religious bias or prejudices. Our religious values will motivate us to witness to non- Muslims and non- Christians in our country to what is good, noble and positive. This will bear fruits such as political, economic progress, social stability and peace.

I appreciate the senior Turkish Muslim who offered to share his Sallah meat with me today. This gesture is characteristic of the loving Christian and Muslim relationship in Nigeria in those days but which seems to have evaporated with the ill wind of religious hostility, distrust and insensitivity. Can we once again imitate the habit of the “good old days” when Muslims joyfully participated in celebrating with Christians at Christmas and Christians would gladly receive from Muslims without fear or suspicion very delicious Sallah meals? Religion should build true brotherhood and friendship and shouldn’t be a reason for mutual distrust.

To my Muslim Brothers and Sisters, especially those we collaborate with for inter-religious harmony who may not have received my greetings by email or text message, I wish to use this medium to wish you from the depth of my heart a very spiritually rewarding and happy Eid-El-Kabir. May God bless us all.

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