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Cardinal Onaiyekan: ‘Religion gets misused’

The Vatican’s highest representative in Nigeria discusses Christian persecution, Boko Haram, and peace in the region.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is split along ethnic and religious lines – with Muslims making up about 50 percent of the population, Christians 40 percent, and the remaining 10 percent registered as professing indigenous beliefs.

Religious and ethnic tensions have frequently been strained. Attacks such a churches bombed by Boko Haram, the radical Islamic group based in the northern part of the country, were condemned by mainstream Islamic leaders in the country.

But some Christians in Nigeria are still fearful of what will happen longterm. It is not often discussed in public, but privately many talk about a future division of the country. 

The Muslim community must do more than just condemning them. They must take concrete effective, proactive steps to reach out to Boko Haram.

by Cardinal Onaiyekan

Religion is a sensitive issue in Nigeria, a country which for a long time prided itself for being the greatest Islamo-Christian nation in the world.

They are now fears that the anger and frustration that the rising insecurity could lead to a resurgence of violence between Christians and Muslims.

“We have not seen enough major effort to think out the issues, the place of religion in our society. On the one hand we don’t want to be a godless people, on the other hand we don’t want a religion to become a cause of killing one another,” says Cardinal Onaiyekan.

So what about the situation in the larger region? What will happen if extremism in the word of religion continues to spread on the continent? And what is the position of the Catholic Church on other issues, like gay rights? 

One of the leading Catholics in Africa is Cardinal Onaiyekan, he is a real insider in the Church too, often referred to as a potential pope.

On Talk to Al Jazeera: Religion and politics in Nigeria with Cardinal Onaiyekan.