VISIT OF NIGERIAN ARCHBISHOP - address by Bishop Michael Jackson at the Fermanagh District Council Chairman's Reception in honour of Archbishop Fearon

The reception took place at the Ardhowen Theatre on Wednesday 6th June prior to the public lecture.

Bishop Jackson, Cllr Baird & Archbishop Fearon

It is a great pleasure to welcome Archbishop Josiah to Clogher Diocese and to County Fermanagh. Archbishop Josiah is making his first visit and we greatly appreciate the time he has given us to do so. As well as getting a feel for Fermanagh and meeting members of the diocese, he is here to give a lecture in the series Christianity and Conflict organized by MACARTAN 1500 through the support of the Rural Development Council and part-financed through the EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation.

The particular situation and circumstances in which Archbishop Josiah lives give him a unique opportunity to contribute to this series. From our television screens we are all well aware of the language of the clash of civilizations. Archbishop Josiah lives in a part of Northern Nigeria where Muslims and Christians live side by said and he speaks, instead, of peaceful co-existence as an aspiration and an ideal. In many parts of civic and religious society today we are aware of the benefits of dialogue. Nowhere, perhaps, have we seen the fruits of this more than in recent times in Northern Ireland. As well as the dialogue of words and the dialogue of ideas there is the dialogue of life. This is what Christian and Muslim leaders have pioneered in Kaduna in a way which is the envy of many, right across Africa.

Not only in his own country, but across the continent of Africa, Archbishop Josiah is in the forefront of this activity. The Kaduna Riots of 2000 catapulted those who had responsibilities for the faith communities to act quickly to heal the rifts in everyday life in that city and that region. Such work is painstaking. It is ongoing but it is essential for the dialogue of life which lies at the heart of a society functioning maturely at the local level.

As we in Northern Ireland begin to grapple with a whole new political reality, we also discern the responsibilities in a whole new definition of society. People who previously hardly met one another at all now meet and will meet much more regularly. The agenda is already moving all of those who exercise leadership forward and is asking of them a desire and willingness to bring people with them by changing hearts and minds. In a different context, on a different continent Archbishop Josiah and others are grappling with such issues. It is my hope that by listening to one another and by asking questions we all can learn from the sharing of experience over the time Archbishop Josiah is with us.

I wish to express my thanks to the Chairman of Fermanagh District Council, Councillor Alec Baird, whom I congratulate on his appointment as First Citizen of Fermanagh, and all members for this Chairman's reception tonight. It is most generous and on behalf of MACARTAN 1500 and the Church of Ireland people of Clogher Diocese I should like to express to you our thanks and appreciation. You have been tremendously supportive of us throughout this programme. In turn we wish you every blessing in your social and political work on behalf of all the people of Country Fermanagh. We look forward to many years of peaceful co-existence both in Nigeria and in Northern Ireland.

It was my pleasure to be Archbishop Josiah's guest in Kaduna in early February and it is my great pleasure, with the help and open-heartedness of you all, to be able to reciprocate that hospitality in my own County Fermanagh.

The Rt Reverend Dr Michael Jackson, bishop of Clogher 6. June. 2007