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 CNS Story:

NIGERIA-ENVOY Mar-27-2012 (320 words) xxxi

Cardinal carries pope's message urging peaceful coexistence to Nigeria

By Peter Ajayi Dada
Catholic News Service

LAGOS, Nigeria (CNS) -- Delivering a message from Pope Benedict XVI, the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue urged Christians and Muslims in Nigeria to be tolerant of each other in an effort to build understanding and end the violence that has plagued much of the country.

Speaking at an interfaith meeting in the northern city of Jos March 25, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran said tolerance was the only path to achieving a peaceful coexistence among people of different faiths.

The cardinal explained during the meeting, organized by Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Jos, that the pope sent him to join religious leaders in seeking ways of ending violent attacks that have left nearly 2,000 people dead and widespread destruction.

Nigeria's northern states have been enmeshed in sectarian violence masterminded largely by the Boko Haram Islamic sect. Christians have engaged in retaliatory violence, continuing a cycle of attacks that began in 1999.

Boko Haram has attacked churches in several cities, including Kano and Jos. A separate attack targeted Sokoto, the seat of the spiritual head of Nigeria's Islamic community. Two foreign nationals who had been held captive for 10 months -- one from Britain and one from Italy -- were killed by al-Qaida-inspired kidnappers in Sokoto March 8 during an attempt by Nigerian and British security forces to free them.

Cardinal Tauran said human relationships must be based on love and shared understanding regardless of ethnic or religious differences.

"If anybody professes a religion other than my own, I think I should be able to understand and appreciate his religion and he, in turn, should be able to appreciate and understand me and what my religion represents," Cardinal Tauran said.

He added that no religion encourages killing or violence.

Cardinal Tauran was in the midst of a 10-day visit to Nigeria and was expected to join a roundtable discussion on interreligious matters at the Shehu Musa Yar'Adua Conference Center in Abuja March 27.

END


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