Archbishop John Olorunferni Onaiyekan of Abuja, president of the Nigerian episcopate, addressed the synod´s 300 participants Tuesday saying, "Those nations that have continued to make religious intolerance and fanaticism the basis of state policy are naturally fertile breeding grounds for the kind of terrorism that struck the world on Sept. 11."
"And this applies not only to the Taliban of Afghanistan, but also to many nations, which have been and are enjoying political respectability in the so-called international community," he added.
"When a nation denies some of its citizens the basic human right of freedom of religion and equality before the law, is it not guilty of state terrorism?" the archbishop asked. He cited Sudan as an example.
"Can this synod muster the courage to proclaim the truth, which the rest of the world seems afraid to admit?" the archbishop queried. "For how long will the world continue to allow some regimes to get away with gross violations of human rights, in the name of religion?"
The Nigerian archbishop called his country of 120 million, which is half Christian, half Muslim, a "privileged situation."
Despite the deadly upheavals in some Nigerian states because of the imposition of Shariah, or Islamic law, the archbishop said that Muslims and Christians live in harmony.
This is why he considers it "regrettable that it is only on such occasions [of upheaval] that the world media, with its predilection for bad news, shows interest in our country."
He blamed the recent clashes, which have left hundreds dead in Nigeria, on two main reasons: "The utterances and activities of fanatics, sometimes on both sides, which provoke crises and conflicts that later engulf everyone," and "the manipulation of politicians who misuse religion for selfish purposes. The attempt to impose Shariah as state law is a case in point."
According to the archbishop, the Christian response to coexistence with Islam implies three elements:
--"deepening the faith of our Christians, to be firm witnesses to their faith while being respectful of others;
--"continuing to stretch out our hands for dialogue and collaboration with the vast majority of our Muslim countrymen and women who are ready to live in peace with everyone"; and,
--"for the sake of the common good, to resist and condemn injustice, even and especially, when it is blasphemously claiming God´s name."
Archbishop Onaiyekan ended his address with a Muslim greeting in Arabic and Latin: "In-sha-Allahu," "Deo Volente. Amen."