It gives me great pleasure to be here again today to welcome you all, especially our invited guests and participants to our 5th general gathering of religious leaders and stake-holders to sincerely discuss how best to maintain peace and harmony in our territory. The topic; INTER-RELIGIOUS DIALOGUE IN THE SERVICE OF PERSONAL AND PUBLIC SECURITY concerns everybody. Although we can thank God that in our context, we enjoy far greater peace and harmony in our area than in other parts of Nigeria, we cannot afford to be complacent. In fact, our rural, agrarian people share much the same security problems as others in Nigeria. I have experienced 4 break-ins in my residence in the last one year and I hear that a few other Christian leaders have experienced the same. Maybe even leaders of other religions can say the same. Thus is to say nothing of general social and moral delinquency at different levels all around us. We all know that religion is a great mobilizer and so we must deploy its power to achieve positive ends. We can use religion to advise, educate and admonish the authorities and our people alike for a better society. May God continue to help us in this regard.
Dear distinguished guests, the religious landscape of our world today leaves no one in doubt about the necessity for harmonious interaction, dialogue and peaceful coexistence among people of various religions and confessions. We see conflict and violence in so many countries of the world. The diocese of Oyo, so collocated among diverse Religions and Confessions, is committed to provide from time to time a platform like this for sincere Inter-religious and Ecumenical Dialogue interactions that can help and promote a better society. Thus together we can explore avenues of study, interaction and collaboration with Muslims, adherents of traditional religion, and other Christians to see areas where we can work more together. We therefore appreciate the openness and collaboration of Christians and Muslims who have a similar vision. This kind of an encounter does not threaten any other structure like the Christian Association of Nigeria or others to which we are committed, rather it strengthens their relevance.
As we reflect together today on issues of security around us, I urge that we do so without consideration for superiority or precedence among us. Our elders say “Omode gbon, agba gbon ni a fi da ile ife”, “owo omode ko to pepe ti agbalagba ko wo keregbe”. May I throw some practical issues into the fray! First, let us shun religious discrimination especially when it concerns social mobility and access to jobs and opportunities. I say this because the high level of insecurity today in Nigeria can be linked to unemployment which is sometimes linked to such discrimination. When we keep opportunities and privileges away from one another based on religion or confession, we generate bad will and rancor among our people and especially the youth. This too can generate insecurity and could be one of the things to discuss at this forum. On the other hand, if we show fairness and accommodation of others in this regard, more public goodwill can be generated. Baptists should be able to work with Muslims, Muslims with Catholic, Catholics with Pentecostals and Pentecostals with Traditional Religion worshippers and so on for the common good. As is often said, good neighbourliness is the best form of security. After all, in the market our people do not sell their vegetable, yam and ponmo according to religious beliefs. This does not mean a loss of our identities at all, but a realization that we are all called to work for peace and harmony and security. This is also our traditional Yoruba value.
Another desirable area is that we can speak with one voice for the truth to the government and security agencies when the occasion occurs. A good example is the education policy of the present Oyo State government which has been largely commended by everybody. Same for the anti-corruption bill which has just been signed into law by the governor of Oyo State, Engineer Seyi Makinde. If we find these as objectively good things, we should be able to commend such important steps together and recommend their fair application for the common good. Thee are just examples of collaboration open to us.
I am sincerely grateful to the Missionaries of Africa, otherwise known as White Fathers, represented here for collaborating with us for a long time now in our inter religious relations efforts. The Missionaries of Africa are a religious group founded precisely for this kind of apostolate in the Universal Catholic Church and they have been doing great things all over Africa in this regard. Thank you very much.
The Inter-Religious Dialogue Committee was revived in Oyo diocese in the year 2008, but this is our 5th annual symposium. We hold meetings and activities every year as a diocese, but our open and general symposium is limited because of funds and support. We welcome collaboration in this aspect as we all know that there can never be any meaningful development in an unsafe environment.
Dear distinguished guests, the Catholic Church strongly believes in this project of interreligious and inter church relations which it has clearly outlined since Vatican II especially through its documents, Nostra Aetate and Unitatis Redintegratio. For Catholic leaders, the goal of such dialogue is for people firmly rooted in different faith traditions to explain their beliefs to one another, grow in knowledge of and respect for one another, and help one another move closer to the truth about God and what it means to be human. All Catholic Bishops try to pursue that essential reality with their faithful and their resources for the realization of one humanity created by God. Some evidence of this can be seen in our effort through the Justice Development and Peace Commission work, our schools, hospitals and empowerment institutions.
I think that whatever we learn and decide today in the way of promoting peaceful coexistence and collaboration will be a fitting tribute to our Yoruba culture and heritage. Our ancestors were highly religious but also highly accommodating. They say “Je kin je lo nmu ayoo dun”, “Oju orun to eye ifo lai fi ara kanra”. It will also be an important legacy of solidarity and collaboration to leave to our children.
In conclusion, let me wish all participants a fruitful deliberation here for a safer environment where everyone can serve God in truth and freedom. I thank the Director and members of the IRD committee in Oyo for their efforts at making sure we have this symposium and the members from all our Parishes, Institutions and Religious Houses for participating. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2020. Once again, you are all welcome. Thank you and God bless you. Amen.
+MOST REV. EMMANUEL ADE BADEJO
CATHOLIC BISHOP OF OYO DIOCESE
WELCOME ADDRESS BY MOST REV. EMMANUEL BADEJO ON 14/12/2019