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Christian Leaders in Africa Decry Protracted Violence, Urge Religious Unity during Ramadan

Image depicting Ramadan fast celebration among followers of the Islam Faith. Credit: Public domain

Christian leaders in Africa have, in their solidarity messages with followers of the Islamic faith during their Ramadan fast, called for the unity of all Religions on the continent to bring an end to protracted violence that continues to claim lives of Christians and Muslims alike especially in West African countries.

In his message shared with ACI Africa at the start of the holy month of Ramadan Tuesday, April 13, Bishop Emmanuel Badejo of Nigeria’s Catholic Diocese of Oyo observes with enthusiasm that one of the most important celebrations in the Islamic faith coincides with that of Christians.

“On behalf of the Clergy, Consecrated Persons and lay people of the catholic Diocese of Oyo, we wish to felicitate with you, our dear brothers and sisters as you begin to observe one of the most beautiful tenets of Islam, the Ramadan Fast,” Bishop Badejo says in his message.

He adds in the message sent through the Diocese’s Interreligious Dialogue Commission (IRD), “The Almighty Allah, who permits all that is good, must have a hand in the coincidence that you are beginning this noble spiritual exercise while Christians are still celebrating the joy of Easter.”

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is believed that the Quran, the central religious text of Islam, was given to the Islamic Prophet Muhammad during this time.

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In the message Bishop Badejo co-signed with the Director of IRD of Oyo Diocese, Fr Joseph Wale Ogundipe, the leadership of the Nigerian Diocese observes with regret that there were increased killings in several West African countries in attacks that seem to have been indiscriminate in their nature, targeting “Christians and Muslims alike.”

“Dear friends, we all feel most concerned about the current rate of violence, kidnapping, banditry and bloodshed in our country,” Bishop Badejo says, and adds, “This is happening to Christians and Muslims alike and is making day-to-day living and livelihood difficult for all.”

The Local Ordinary of Oyo who doubles as the President of the Pan African Episcopal Committee for Social Communications (CEPACS) expresses the need for the people of God in West Africa to be concerned about what he refers to as a siege currently imposed on Yorubaland (countries in West Africa) through violent kidnapping, rape, and killing of women, farmers and ordinary citizens.

He says that Africa’s culture is one that respects the sanctity of life and the rights of all citizens while protecting harmonious coexistence, underscoring the need for Muslims and Christians to join hands and to promote the virtues of equity, peace and justice.

This, the Nigerian Bishop says, would return the West African society to “the path of serenity and prosperity.”

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The 59-year-old Bishop further says that Catholics in Nigeria, especially in his Diocese, are willing to work together with their brothers and sisters in the Islamic faith to realize development in the country.

“As Catholics we are open to work with you for fruitful and holistic human development which will enhance the future of our children and society,” Bishop Badejo says in his message at the start of the holy month of Ramadan, adding, “On this note we pray for our religious and political leaders that the Almighty Allah may help them to lead us aright.”

“As we pray for your successful observation of this holy season, we assure you of our goodwill and pray that your supplication may bring peace to our world, our country and to Yorubaland in particular. Wishing you a blessed month of Ramadan. Ramadan Kareem!!! Ma Sallam!” the Bishop who has been at the helm of Oyo Diocese since November 2009 says.

In a separate message to Muslims in Mauritius, the leadership of the Council of Religions in the Island country located off the South-eastern coast of Africa congratulated the Islam community for staying true to their religion despite the COVID-19 pandemic that has interfered with Religious celebrations.

“The Council of Religions wishes Ramadan Kareem to our Muslim brothers who are starting the holy month of fasting. We pray that Almighty God will listen to the prayers of his people and increase our faith, hope and charity in us,” the Council leadership says in the letter signed by the President, Fr. Philippe Goupille.

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According to Council of Religions in Mauritius, the health situation of Covid-19 has been “a prophetic sign for planet earth.”

“The materialistic world that was taking off without caring for the common good suddenly came to a halt and this stop made us think a lot about returning to the source and revisiting our intrinsic values,” Fr. Goupille, a Clergy of the Catholic Diocese of Port-Louis, says in the communiqué dated Monday, April 12.

He adds, “For two years in a row, the mosques have remained closed and we salute the community of faith, which has been able to adapt to live the holy month of Ramadan at home with the same fervor as in normal times.”

The leader of the Council of Religions in Mauritius expresses optimism that in addition to the spiritual exercises that will strengthen the interior life of the believer, the month of fasting for the Muslim community will be for many a surge of solidarity to contribute to the needs of others and especially to the destitute of society.

“The spirituality that brings us closer to the Creator God will also lead us to come closer to our brothers so that they have enough to eat and that they do not suffer the precariousness of life which destroys the dignity of human beings,” Fr. Goupille says, and adds, “May the Most Merciful God grant you His Grace in this time of fasting and may your prayers be answered.”