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Nigerian cardinal: dialogue with Islam is productive

March 24, 2017

A Nigerian cardinal insisted that dialogue with Islam can be productive, in a speech to a Notre Dame conference on African theology.

“I’ve spent 40 years having dialogue with Muslims and I believe it is possible and it is fruitful,” said Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja. He said that although Muslims may not respond in the way that Christians expect, still “attitudes are changed and bridges are built.”

Nigeria has been scarred by the violence of an Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram. But the cardinal cautioned that extremists do not represent the totality of Islam. “We need to avoid the attitude that says Islam is just terrorism and Boko Haram.” Moreover, he said, in Nigeria, dialogue with Islam is unavoidable, since Muslims constitute roughly one-half of the country’s people. Cardinal Abuja observed that there are more Muslims in Nigeria than in all the countries of the Middle East.

In discussions with Muslims, the Nigerian cardinal continued, a top priority should be talks about the relationship between faith and the law. Muslims hope to bring the country under the rule of Shari’a law, which Christians will not willingly accept. But Christians and Muslims should find some common ground in discussing how secular law should reflect moral principles. “Human laws must respect divine injunctions,” the cardinal said.

 
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  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Mar. 25, 2017 3:12 PM ET USA

    "[T]he cardinal cautioned that extremists do not represent the totality of Islam." He is probably more right than he thinks he is. Like Judaism, there are so many different strands of Islam that you can't pin it down. One strand will say "don't chop off heads," while another will tell you to do it. Similar to Protestantism, divorce in Islam is a non-issue because it is a purely legal matter. In Islam, as in the other mentioned "isms," you are free to pick and choose according to where you live.

  • Posted by: Travelling - Mar. 24, 2017 10:09 PM ET USA

    Yes. This is evangelisation. We need to heed what this wise Cardinal is saying and apply it.