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Rev. Fr. Vitalis Ekemmiri is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Okigwe but on mission in Lagos Catholic Archdiocese. He is both the Parish Priest of St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, Okokomaiko, Lagos and Co-ordinator of the Inter-Religious Dialogue Commission (IDRC), an arm of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria in the Lagos Archdiocese.
Rev. Fr. Vitalis Ekemmiri is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Okigwe but on mission in Lagos Catholic Archdiocese. He is both the Parish Priest of St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, Okokomaiko, Lagos and Co-ordinator of the Inter-Religious Dialogue Commission (IDRC), an arm of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria in the Lagos Archdiocese. The aim of the commission is to bring all people of different faiths together in order to lessen inter-religious strifes and encourage communion among all faiths. He spoke to Daily Sun on the activities of the commission since inception.
Main mission of IRDC
The main mission of IRDC is to marry religions for mutual co-existence through dialogue and understanding of one another. IRDC is trying make people understand the main tenets of different religions, the real heritage of the sacred religions so that when people understand one another, the over-labeling of religions by people of different religions over and against one another would eventually give room for mutual understanding. And when religions come together, they share experiences on different religious levels, people are mutually enriched. Being mutually enriched, religion per se is enhanced. When religious people meet, they discuss religion duly from their individual religious perspective, helping people to understand the whole issue about their faith.
Basics of religion
And what is really the basics about religion, goodness, witnessing unto his prime being, relating man with the Supreme Being, the utmost good and the desire of man, the good God. God does not really permit tribe. Religion is not a thing of mutual fighting. It has an intra as well as external effects on the life of the individual. So, the Inter Religious Dialogue helps people to really understand their religion better, help them to get their religion across to others and make them really understand them, not labelling them. It makes people to accommodate one another despite the differences in religion and profession and make them live harmoniously together. Harmonious co-existence is a fundamental factor and concern for religion and also makes other religions understand that we belong to one common family and that we are from the common stock, God. Therefore, there is need for us to live with one another.
It also addresses social issues, because religions attend to people and people are affected by human problems. So, religious dialogue tries to make inputs to social issues that affect humanity from religious perspective. Give these problems religious background and bring them out and proffer the way forward. Such issues as unbridled desire for riches, the idea of corruption, the idea of bribery at all levels, corruption and so many social vices you know, religious strife here and there that most times have some political undertone and personal interest and so many things that people push to society that ought not to have been the case.
Religious groups IRCD works with
We have no limit. We work with religions of the world. And most especially here in Nigeria where we have three major religions, Christianity, Islam and the African traditional religion otherwise known as indigenous religion as well as other religions that we can think about that exist in Nigeria. We get clients. We call people together and we discuss social issues, practical human cum divine issues that affect us and we make inputs from these religions and find out that there is a common factor that is common to all religions, goodness. This strife up north, down south, people cannot live together, they strive, they kill one another ought not to be there as arising from religious profession.
Hierarchy of participants
Right, religion is not really all about the elites. It is about a relationship between humanity and the divine. Because religion must be treated and approached and be understood and practised on two levels. The vertical level that is with the Supreme Being and the horizontal level with the human levels. So, it is not all about the elite. The elite help to stimulate the thought, the masses put the thought into practice and they stimulate their own dialogue by asking questions. So, while most of the writings, most of the talkings, thought-provoking statements have been made by the elite of religions, the target are all who are religious and mostly the masses. And we are getting to them. That is the essence of involving the mass media so that a lot of the masses who do not attend forum and who probably couldnít have had the opportunity also could read and also make inputs with time.
We worship the one Central God although from different aspects of our lives and from different approaches but the target is one, the supreme God, otherwise known as Chukwu by the Igbos and identified by the Yorubas as Olodumare and Ubangidi by the Hausas and so many other ways of identifying the same Supreme Being, but the approach, the how, and the dimensions to get to this Supreme Being differs with people and religions.
Do adherents of these religions have chances of making heaven?
Alright, when you talk about heaven, heaven is about living a good life. About going to heaven, no one can say really these are the true criteria, but we can say who is good and who is bad. Every good man, any good man can make heaven because it is simply understood that the entire humanity as it were is the creation of God and man is the image of God and wherever man is found, he is ruled by his conscience and the rule of conscience is the ability to judge for good and the right. And once there is good action, man can make heaven.
So, we, donít completely rule out the idea that people of other religions can make heaven, that will be overstatement.
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