What is said to be the biggest representation of Christianity’s namesake on the African continent, a 30-foot, or nine-meter, tall marble sculpture of Jesus Christ was recently unveiled to the world in the southeastern Nigerian town of Abajah. The debut of the “Jesus de Greatest” statue was reported to have been attended by over 100 priests and hundreds of Catholics, according to Yahoo News.
A Chinese company was said to have been commissioned to carve the sculpture from solid marble by Nigerian businessman Obinna Onuoha. A church built in 2012, which is said to have a capacity of 2,000, is the reported home of the Jesus de Greatest statue. The cost of the statue has not been revealed publicly.
— allAfrica.com (@allafrica) January 3, 2016
Onuoha was said to have wanted the statue of Jesus Christ created to honor the 50th anniversary of his parents’, Chief Geoffrey’s and Lolo Justina Onuoha’s, marriage. When his mother became ill at the age of 66, two years ago, she was said to have asked her son to promise to build a church if she survived. The 43-year-old Nigerian philanthropist, who is reported to work as a “boss of an oil and gas distribution company,” appears to have made good on his promise to his mother.
Bishop Augustine Tochukwu Okwuoma, who conducted the mass preceding the unveiling of the statue, was quoted as stating the sculpture will be a “very great symbol of faith” to worshipers and anyone who comes within view of it. The bishop stated that the mission of Christianity is to propagate “peace, love and unity” and that those called into the clergy must reflect upon this. The Catholic Bishop was also reported to describe the statue as “magnificent.”
(Jesus)Christ is the Redeemer in Rio, Brazil and de Greatest in Abajah, Nigeria pic.twitter.com/bSQ5aMrt6Y
— HENRY Okelue (@4eyedmonk) January 2, 2016
The statue is thought to weigh more than 40 tonnes. Onuoha was said to have carried the dream of building a statue of Jesus for 20 years.
“We think religions can exist side by side,” Onuoha was quoted. “We hope that people can live in harmony.”
Nigeria is faced with a religious divide between a more affluent Christian southern region and an impoverished Muslim northern region. The African nation has also been faced with continued terrorist attacks from terrorist group Boko Haram, who has pledged allegiance to ISIS, as reported by the Inquisitr.
— BellaNaija.com (@bellanaija) December 15, 2015
Between them, ISIS and Boko Haram were estimated to be responsible for half of all terror deaths in 2014: the African terror group killed 6,644 in 2014. In their six of years of existence, the Nigerian radicals are reported to be responsible for the deaths of over 17,000. The group wishes to “create an independent state” within northern Nigeria.
The Jesus de Greatest statue was reported to have taken three years to complete, according to All Africa.
“Asking why I constructed this statue is like asking how do I came to this world, I am a Christian and a Catholic and [the] Jesus statue represents my faith,” Obinna Onuoha was quoted. “I believe we are here on earth for different purposes and each person moves with his/her instincts, and I was motivated to do this to build up the faith of this community.”
Onuoha was reported to have contacted the police to notify them of the completion of the statue, citing concerns that it may become a target for vandals, according to the Nigerian Sun.
While the unveiling of the statue was reported to have been attended by many enthusiastic well-wishers, others in the community appear to not be convinced.
Resident Catholic and former seminary student Emmanuel Lashiolola stated that it is “wrong” to “unveil” a statue of Christ. The Nigerian expressed a hope that the unveiling of the statue wasn’t some type of scheme to raise money.
Nigerian priest, Paul Awowole, was said to disagree with Lashiolola’s view, stating that he believed the unveiling of the statue of Jesus venerated the Christian figure.
[Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images]