In New Book, Cardinal Highlights His “unwavering commitment” to Fostering Peace in Nigeria

Religion for Peace by John Cardinal Onaiyekan . Credit: ACI Africa

In a new book, John Cardinal Onaiyekan has highlighted his involvement in peacebuilding initiatives in his native country of Nigeria, and across the globe. 

In the 210-page book published under the title, “Religion for Peace”, Cardinal Onaiyekan narrates his “unwavering commitment to bridging divides and building bridges of understanding in a world often marred by religious discord.”

The Nigerian Cardinal, who turned 80 on January 29 discusses his partnerships with a variety of stakeholders in peace processes, including faith-based groups, civil society, and governments, among others, as well as the challenges he encountered and victories he achieved in the past six-decades of ministerial service.

The new book serves as a comprehensive chronicle of the Archbishop Emeritus of Nigeria’s Abuja Archdiocese, who started his Episcopal Ministry in January 1983 as Auxiliary Bishop of the West African country’s Ilorin Diocese.

Speaking during the book launch, one of activities to mark his 80th birthday, Cardinal Onaiyekan, who previously served as President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) traced his commitment to peacebuilding to his nuclear family. 


“I was raised by my parents to pursue peace and reconciliation, and this has been my dream since I was a young boy, to see a country where there will be religious harmony and peace among our people,” he said during the February 4 event that was held at Holy Trinity Event Centre, Abuja.

He added, “I have been so lucky to interact with various cultures and beliefs and I can tell that we need to be more tolerant as people of faith and promote interfaith, dialogue and collaboration in our country Nigeria.”

The Cardinal, who, a recent interview with ACI Africa, said that “true religion must be about peace” went on to emphasize the need to foster elements that unite, saying, “We must always seek a common ground in our interfaith interaction because we are all serving the same God; religion may be different but the purpose of all religion is to serve this one almighty God.”

In his speech during the February 4 book launch, Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim of Ahmadu Bello of University Zaria described Cardinal Onaiyekan’s book as “one which is relevant in the promotion of interfaith collaboration and curbing hate speech in our contemporary society.”

“Hate speech has become part of the characteristics of our lives today. What hate speech does is to create pathways into turning compatriots into enemies, and when you turn compatriots into enemies, you create a fertile ground for conflict,” Prof. Jibrin said.

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He added, “The irony of the Abrahamic religion, Judaism, Christianity and Islam is that they are from the same source, but they treat each other and act towards each other as if they serve a different God and this book helps to discourage hate speech on all fronts.”

Also speaking at the February 4 event, Senate President, Chief Godswill Akpabio, lauded Cardinal Onaiyekan’s commitment to service with compassion.  

“We have gathered to honor a man who has dedicated his entire life to the service of others, a man whose unwavering commitment to justice, compassion and unity has touched countless lives and inspired generations both in Nigeria and abroad,” he said.

Chief Akpabio added, “Cardinal Onaiyekan's leadership and ministry has been marked by the pursuit of justice and equality. In the face of injustice, he has worked tirelessly for the poor and marginalized and the voiceless and this is evidence in this book, Religion for Peace”.

Cardinal Onaiyekan became the pioneer Archbishop of Abuja when the Nigerian Episcopal See was elevated to an Archdiocese in March 1994. He retired as Archbishop of Abuja at the age of 75 in 2019, and succeeded by Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, who was installed in December 2019.


Earlier, the Nigerian Catholic Church leader, who was elevated to the rank of Cardinal and appointed Cardinal-Priest of San Saturnino in November 2012 served as the Apostolic Administrator of Ahiara Diocese from July 2013 to February 2018.

At 80, Cardinal Onaiyekan will not be taking part in Conclaves, convened to elect a Pope. 

Abah Anthony John is a Nigerian Journalist with great enthusiasm and interest for Catholic Church Communication and Media Apostolate. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Mass Communication from Benue State University, Makurdi, Benue State Nigeria. He has vast experience in Print,  Electronic and Multi-Media Production.