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Advancing shared wellbeing in the world, By Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua

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The wellbeing of the human person is highly connected to the enhancement of the dignity of the human person. In preparation for the 10th World Assembly of Religions for Peace in Lindau, Germany on August 20-23, 2019, one of the sub-themes discussed by the African Council of Religious Leaders (ACRL) and Religions for Peace (RfP) at the Regional consultative forum which I facilitated was, “Advancing shared wellbeing by preventing and transforming conflict including war and terrorism”. Advancing shared wellbeing calls for peaceful co-existence. This is because God created humanity as a community. The mission of the human person on earth is to love God and serve him while the vision of the human person is to be happy here and hereafter with God on the last day. We therefore need to be aware and conscious of the value God has placed on humanity. The dignity of man and woman calls for respect for each other and one another. Shared wellbeing calls on human beings to be healers to those who go about with wounded memories and broken hearts as a result of human insensitivity. Advancing shared wellbeing calls for debriefing and healing of the memory of victims of violence. Above all, shared wellbeing calls for control of temperaments given that the greatest warrior in the world is a person who can conquer his or her temperaments.

To be a fulfilled person with a sound mind, one need just a little journey into the interior castle, namely the heart to rediscover one’s true identity. The value of a person is far above any material value. This is because the destiny of each one of us is a final union with God. This topic calls for the need to make this world a better place. Yes, a world conducive enough for the glory of God and happiness for every human being. The reference point of our enquiry in this discussion is Shared wellbeing which cannot be realized without dialogue. This includes the courage to apply the values of our different religions to the context of our daily life. The ultimate goal of every Christian is to be like Jesus in words and deeds while people of other religions try to imitate the ideals of their religions. This is not impossible. A lot of men and women have been shining examples and models in almost every aspect of human life.

To live together in a community, it is important that you know who you are. This would enable you to appreciate the other as a person with whom you share the same nature. Consequently, a knowledge of anthropological foundation of the human character is important for facilitators of dialogue and peacebuilding. Have you ever bothered to ask any of your parents the events that surrounded your birth? The popular ideas at the time you were born and the people that moved the world around you. These questions can contribute to the affirmation of who you are as a person and your latent potentials to make the world around you a glorious bliss instead of a blaze. Your “person” can create heaven in a wounded broken world through your presence, your smile, your touch, your attention, your care, your tolerance, your patience, your total being, readiness to be the bread broken and shared and the willingness to be the wine poured forth for the world around you irrespective of tribe, colour and religion. The life we live is a dialogue since what we are and who we are speaks louder than what we can ever say with our mouth no matter the oratory and eloquence. We must make a difference to change the world around us. We need to begin from where we are and who we are. The power in us must be seen in the way we share love, peace, joy and attractive attitude of reconciliation.

To live like an authentic human being, remember that it is hard to soar with the eagles when you have to live with the turkeys. You need to be different from dividers of communities and those who profit from conflict by analysing your local context and religion in order to build peace and transform conflict. Since no man is an island the need to mobilize other actors for peacebuilding is indispensable. Myths and stories have been used to answer the puzzle of human nature. It was when the people of Israel were in Exile in Babylon they first started to ask themselves about their origin and destiny. These reflections gave rise to the inspired myths of Genesis 1-11, using the Epic of Gilgamesh as a major source. The divine nature of the human person enables him/her to enter into dialogue with God and the entire creation. The human nature has the capacity to dialogue in the context of creation for the wellbeing of nature, humanity and the environment. Wellbeing in the context of creation could mean that there is peace in the heart of humanity and every created thing under the care of man and woman.

The first stage in preventing conflict is self-examination and respect for the other. God created the world good. The story of the Garden of Eden symbolizes peace happiness and contentment that human beings would enjoy. The sin of Adam and Eve symbolizes the inclination which the human person later acquired freely to disobey. Consequently, hatred and jealousy was displayed in the story of Cain and Abel (Genesis 3). The result of the sin of Adam and Eve was a serious rivalry and hatred. The scattered smoke of Cain’s offering was an expression of the burning jealousy and anger he was already nursing against his brother Abel. Otherwise he would have tried a better offering when the former was rejected. The case of Cain and Abel is an expression of the passion in the heart of human beings today. God asked Cain: where is your brother? In response to God’s question, Cain asked in return: Am I my brother’s keeper (Genesis 4:10)? To prevent conflict, the human person must learn to be content with what he has and who he is. Greed causes conflict hence we must care for the common good.

God desires the transformation of conflict hence he took the initiative to restore the broken and fractured humanity after the fall of humanity. At many moments in the past and by many means, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; but in our time, the final days, he has spoken to us in the person of his son whom he appointed heir of all things and through whom he made all things (Hebrews 1:1-2). Jesus came to give life and he gave it abundantly (John 10:10). He came as the fulfilment of the promise made by God to his people. After preparing himself through fasting, baptism and conquering the devil that tempted him with food, fame and power, Jesus made reconciliation, forgiveness and peace a condition even for the acceptance of the offering. “If you are bringing your offering to the alter and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother or sister first, and then come back and present your offering” (Matthew.5: 17-18).

We can prevent and transform conflict through patience, endurance and forgiveness in accordance to the teaching of Jesus Christ. He says: “If any one strikes you on your right cheek; turn to him the other also. And if any one sue you at the law, and take away your coat, let him/her have your cloak also. And whoever shall compel you to go a mile, go with him two. Give to the person that asks you, and turn not away from the person that would borrow from you (Matthew 5:39 cf. Luke 6:35-36). We should understand the need for inter-religious dialogue to educate our people in words and action that fighting in the name of religion is unreasonable. Attentive and sympathetic listening helps each to see the other as a brother or sister capable of loving, speaking the truth, seeking justice, offering forgiveness and sharing compassion. These are the basic values which all religious traditions encourage. They are paths to reconciliation and peace. Let us live to celebrate our successes together and work together to restore our losses. Let us advance and promote the wellbeing of each other such that we can live in peace and harmony. Say no to conflict! Say yes to Peace!

Rev. Fr. Cornelius Omonokhua is the Executive Secretary of Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) ([email protected])

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