ROME, Nov. 7, 2012 (Zenit.org).- On October 31st, Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria, was in Brussels to receive a peace award from Pax Christi International.
He was named the organizations Peace Award Laureate for 2012.
In his acceptance speech, Archbishop Onaiyekan expressed surprise at receiving the award as “I find myself being commended for doing what is most natural to me, what I believe I should be doing.”
He went on to say that all he has been trying to do is to promote peace and harmony. “Every report of violent bloodshed in my country Nigeria fills me with deep sorrow,” he declared.
“But in every situation, one can always thank God for his gift of peace and tranquillity in most of our nation, outside the few and restricted theatres of conflict and violence, and most of the time, except the truly exceptional occasions when the Devil seems to get the upper hand.”
Archbishop Onaiyekan went on to outline some of the convictions that have sustained him in his work for the Church in Nigeria.
The first one, he said, “is my deep faith in God who is the powerful Creator and loving Father of all humanity, irrespective of creed, nationality or social status.” God is a God of Peace, he stressed. “My faith reveals Him to me as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, who has given us a promise which is also a charge: “Blessed are the peace makers: they shall be called children of God.””
The second one is the directives of the Church. He explained that he started his theological studies during the last session of Vatican II. “I grew and matured in my knowledge of the faith in the spirit of that Council and of subsequent pronouncement of the teaching office of the Catholic Church, which we call the magisterium.”
The third conviction is the great amount of common ground that people share. “It is very sad to observe that there are people who tend to define themselves in terms of where and how they differ from others,” he commented.
The fourth conviction is that the vast majority of people are normal and want to go about their lives in peace. Sometimes, however, this large silent majority can be led astray by a vocal minority with an extremist agenda, he noted. “The challenge is to build on the foundation of the good will of the majority, get the silent majority to abandon its silence and speak out and put together a vocal critical mass of peacemakers.”
Killing in the name of God
Passing on to the tasks ahead Archbishop Onaiyekan declared it should no longer be acceptable to kill in the name of God. He cited John Paul II’s description of such action as “a grievous sin of blasphemy.”
“A God that needs me to kill people in his defence is not worthy of my worship,” he stated.
Christianity and Islam have the largest numbers of adherents in the world, he pointed out. “It is about time that these two faiths seriously assume the special responsibility which they have for peace in our world,” he urged.
Nations need to respect the rights and duties of all their citizens. Respect for religious plurality by governments will lead to more peaceful nations, he said.
The rights of religions and of minorities are fundamental human rights. This includes the right to practice a religion that is freely chosen, Abuja’s archbishop commented.
“In an international community where the rights of rhinos and forests are defended with all vigour, it is a great and sad mystery that the right of human beings to be human is in many places considered negotiable or denied outright!”
He also criticized the accumulation of armaments and urged a greater commitment to justice as a way to avoid conflicts.