It is nine meters tall and carved out of marble, and considered the largest statue of Jesus in Africa. The statue of ‘Jesus De Greatest’ is also the tallest statue of Jesus on the African continent standing almost 28 feet tall in the Abajah village of Southern Nigeria.
It closely follows Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro which stands at 98 feet tall and tallest Christ the King in western Poland which is 118 feet tall,
Devout catholic businessman, Obinna Onuoha, who commissioned the construction of the statue said the project was to fulfill a personal pledge he made to God in 1997.
According Aleteia, a catholic news portal, Mr. Obinna said he wants the edifice to be viewed as a symbol of peace in a country that’s battling Islamic extremist groups like Boko Haram. He also observed that since 2009, Nigeria has faced attacks from extremists in the country’s northeast and believes the statue of Jesus will send a signal that both Christians and Muslims can co-exist peacefully.
The Christian community have remained resolute despite Boko Haram insurgency claiming the lives of at least 20,000 people over the past years.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populated country with over 170 million inhabitants who are mainly Christians and Muslims.
Researcher, Tony Terwase Famave, in his paper on ‘Fostering Dialogue and Engagement: The Role of the Catholic’ noted that ethnic and religious divisions in Nigeria have often been complicated by the Muslim and Christian communities.
According to him, the general culture among the traditional sect before the arrival of Islam and Christianity was one of tolerance and acceptance. But, evangelism by the two dominant religions has been the trigger for the present religious conflicts in Nigeria.
Tony said the religious conflict can be traced to colonialism as Muslims perceived Christians as enjoying protection from the British. The Muslims considered the British conquest of the Northern territory of Nigeria as a victory for Christianity.
Citing a letter written by Lord Lugard to the caliphate announcing intentions of the British to foster a good relationship with Sokoto, Tony indicated that this even further strained the perspective of the Muslims as it was viewed as an attempt to spite the Sultan Abdurranhman Atiku and take over their land.
This explains why the chiefs, emirs and the Islamic communities in those areas were hostile to the Christian missionaries, so much that they had to suspend missionary activities there all together, and demand that they leave the territories between 1886 and 1902.
He added that even until today, churches are easily burned down in the north at the slightest misunderstanding or miscommunication in the media. State governors rarely grant permission for the building of churches and in most cities, it is forbidden to build churches.
Tony Famave further indicated that although Nigeria has been said to be a secular state since its independence in 1960, religion still plays a huge role in the nation’s everyday life.
He pointed out that the mixture of politics and religion in Nigeria has cost the country so many lives and has caused Nigerians to have a distorted view of what true religion is.
It is against this backdrop that initiative by businessman Obinna Onuoha using the statue of Jesus De Greatest is significant to promoting religious tolerance and mutual respect in Nigeria.
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