Christian Leaders in Nigerian State Highlight Four Pillars of Successful Dialogue

Map showing the various states in Nigeria. Credit: Public Domain

Christian leaders in Nigeria’s Lagos State under the auspices of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) have highlighted four pillars, which they say are essential in interreligious dialogue.

In his Monday, February 7 address, the chairman of CAN Lagos State, Rev. Stephen Tunde Victor Adegbite listed truth, love, justice, and freedom as pillars that can help in interreligious dialogue to contribute to peace in the world.

Rev. Adegbite who was speaking at a one-day workshop organized under the theme, “Dialogue - the medium through which interfaith, peace, justice and equity find expression”, said that there is a danger of interreligious dialogue failing at the first pillar of truth because of wrong conception of what truth really is. Such wrong conceptions, he said, lead to the obstacle of self-sufficiency.

“One of the obstacles to dialogue is self-sufficiency, which leads to a lack of openness to others,” Rev. Adegbite said, and added, “If one party declares that it has the truth, and that all others are in error and are therefore not worthy of consideration, no relationship can be possible.”

The chair of the forum that includes representatives of the Catholic Bishops in Nigeria urged religious leaders in the West African nation to draw a line between ecumenical and interreligious dialogues saying that dialogue involves a clarification of the two differences.


“This is surely not to be despised, for when we understand the other's position more fully, we can speak the truth in love. In other words, we are not satisfied with half-truths, with approximations which can lead to false accusations, but rather we treat our partners in dialogue with due respect,” Rev. Adegbite said.

In his address that reference Catholic documents, the Methodist Bishop said that overcoming prejudice is one of the tasks that dialogue seeks to address, a task he said was taken by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

The CAN official made reference to Pope John XXIII’s Encyclical Letter, Pacem in Terris on establishing Universal Peace in Truth, Justice, Charity, and Liberty, explaining that there can be “interreligious cooperation in opposing legislation which is deemed to be unjust.”

“Justice will build peace if in practice everyone respects the rights of others and actually fulfils his duties towards them,” Rev. Adegbite said in reference to Pacem in Terris.

“John XXIII does not appear himself to have used the expression pillars of peace, but he does bring together these four requirements. He speaks of the order which prevails in human society: its foundation is truth, and it must be brought into effect by justice,” Rev Adegbite said.

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The Methodist Bishop said that lack of justice, in individual, social and international relations contributes a lot in the unrest witnessed in most parts of the world today, which he said lead to violent conflict.

He further refuted the claim that "there can be no peace in the world without peace among the religions,” a statement the Nigerian church leader said is not only misleading but also unjust because “it is construed as meaning that all the ills of society and all conflicts owe their origins to religion.”

He said that the commitment of CAN is to educate people to foster mutual respect and esteem in view of bringing about “peaceful and fraternal coexistence between people of different ethnic groups, cultures and religions.”

“We commit ourselves to fostering the culture of dialogue, so that there will be an increase of understanding and mutual trust between individuals and among people, for these are the premises of authentic peace,” Rev. Adegbite said.

He added, “We commit ourselves to frank and patient dialogue, refusing to consider our differences as an insurmountable barrier, but recognizing instead that to encounter the diversity of others can become an opportunity for greater reciprocal understanding.”


The Methodist Bishop of Ikeja who was elected the chairman of CAN on 14 December 2020 said that justice as a condition of peace remains insufficient without love.

“There can be the temptation to remain solely at the level of justice, making an absolute demand for rights to be recognized and fulfilled. In the process there may be an infringement of the rights of others. So, justice has to be tempered by love,” he said.

The church leader who gave his address at a one-day workshop held February 7 at the Eternal Sacred Order of the Cherubim & Seraphim (ESOCs) said that love “functions as a cement for or as mortar between the bricks of individual and collective rights.”

He further made reference to St. Pope John Paul II message to Philippine Muslims in which the Pontiff said that there is need for human beings to see each other as brothers and sisters irrespective of color and creed because of sharing the same human family that traces back to God.

“The first of these takes the form of solidarity. It is based on the recognition that we all belong to one human family. Because of this we can see our fellow human beings as brothers and sisters, despite differences of color or creed. It was this conviction that led Pope John Paul II to stress fraternity in addressing Muslims,” Rev Adegbite said.

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He made reference to Vatican II document Nostra Aetate, on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions, and stressed the paternity of God and the biblical concept of love to be shared even with other religions including the Jews.

The official of CAN underscored the need for freedom in the existence of peace, saying that it allows people to act responsibly.

The Nigerian Methodist Bishop underlined the need to share the peace process with the population involved in conflicts and explained that a solution that is not as a result of collective contribution, but imposed from above and not accepted willingly, cannot last.

He further made reference to the Encyclical Letter, Pacem in Terris, and stressed the need for respecting freedom of others in so many ways.

“Man has a natural right to be respected. He has a right to his good name. He has a right to freedom in investigating the truth, and… within the limits of the moral order and the common good…to freedom of speech and publication, and to freedom to pursue whatever profession he may choose. He has the right, also, to be accurately informed about public events,” Rev Adegbite said in reference to Pacem in Terris.

He said that the work of the Christian interfaith should be to advocate for the church in areas where the church is being persecuted or where its freedom to spread the Gospel is denied and also to be in solidarity with religious minorities whose fundamental rights are being attacked.

“In divided societies and a divided world where religious difference is often used or perceived as a cause of conflict and destruction, we affirm that working for reconciliation between different faith communities is a responsibility laid upon us by God, and that as Christians we must do this in partnership with members of other faith communities, with secular organizations, and with all people of good will,” Rev. Adegbite said.

He added, “Our vocation to share in God's work of reconciliation requires us to strive to build up open, trusting and honest relationships with our neighbors of other religions, even in situations where this is very difficult. We see such interreligious reconciliation as an integral part of the mission of God in which we share.”