By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Christians and Muslims in Nigeria are invited to spend Thursday in prayer, beginning at noon, for an end to the Covid-19 crisis in the nation. The prayer initiative is available for viewing on the social media pages of the Nigerian Interreligious Council and national television stations.
This prayer initiative is organized by the Nigerian Interreligious Council (NIREC), an organization that consists of representatives of Nigeria’s two principal religions: Christianity and Islam
An instance of dialogue of social engagement
In an interview with Vatican News, the Executive Secretary of NIREC, Fr. Cornelius Omonokhua explains the idea behind the prayer initiative. He notes that it was inspired by the example of Christians and Muslims in Liberia who prayed together during the country’s revolution. Based on that model, NIREC started to develop a “dialogue of social engagement” where “Christians and Muslims come together to pray for common concerns.”
“By praying together, we are accepting the fact that we have a basis for dialogue. First that God is the creator of all of us, and there is only one God. And that Abraham is our father in faith,” said Fr. Omonokhua.
Explaining that the idea came from Cardinal John Onaiyekan, the Archbishop Emeritus of Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, he says it is organized in conjunction with the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’adu Abubakar.
Interreligious collaboration in fight against Covid-19
NIREC’s Executive Secretary describes the organization as a “nexus, a liaison between religion and the government.” He explains that NIREC was contacted by government officials when Nigeria began to take precautionary measures against the coronavirus. The aim was to ensure the collaboration of religious leaders with government efforts against the pandemic.
“We want people to see Christians and Muslims praying together so that they know that it is not Christian or Islamic to fight,” says Fr. Omonokhua. “Right now with Covid-19 on ground, nobody is talking about Christianization or Islamization… “Covid-19 is not a respecter of religion,” he adds.
Nigeria currently has 1728 confirmed coronavirus cases, 51 deaths, and 307 recovered patients in the pandemic that has infected over 36,000 Africans.
The Nigerian Interreligious Council was created due to the incessant ethno-religious crisis which punctuates the sociopolitical landscape of Nigeria. NIREC provides religious and traditional leaders with a forum to promote interactions and understanding among the faithful of Christianity and Islam, as well as lay foundations for peace and harmony in the country.
The Nigerian Interreligious Council is made up of 60 members (30 Christians and 30 Muslims). .