Card. John Onaiyekan

Emeritus Archbishop of Abuja Catholic Archdiocese
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Cardinal John Onaiyekan, the first Archbishop of Abuja, played a decisive role in preventing Nigeria from descending into dictatorship. As a Church leader he is determined to protect and defend the country’s Christian community against economic hardships and the attacks of extremist Islamic terrorist organisations. The Cardinal keeps cautioning against simplifying the events in Nigeria into a conflict between Muslims and Christians. He said: “There are victims on both sides, and the site of the explosion is not the only place where bombs bring perdition; they poison our society and only strengthen the image of animosity between Christianity and the Islam. This situation could escalate into something disastrous, therefore we have to do everything we can to initiate a dialogue between the two sides.” John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan was ordained a priest in 1969; in 1976 he earned a doctorate in the study of the Holy Scripture. In 1980, John Paul II. appointed him as a member of the International Theological Commission for five years, and he also joined the Commission of the Catholic-Methodist Dialogue. He was ordained the Bishop of Ilorin in 1983. In 1990, he was appointed Coadjutor Bishop of the Abuja, and when Abuja was turned into a Metropolitan seat in 1994, Onaiyekan became its first archbishop. Onaiyekan held several important positions in the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria over the years, and in 2012 he received the Peace award of Pax Christi International. Cardinal Onaiyekan is fighting for the implementation of the principle of religious freedom. He once stated: ”…the relationship between religion and politics needs to be defined clearly. Because experience shows that if politics and religion are mixed or confused with each other, the vileness of politics often besmirches the beauty of religion.”

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