The largest statue of Jesus on the African continent has been unveiled in Nigeria.
The 30-metre image, weighing 40 tonnes and standing at nine-metre tall, carved from white marble, was on Friday January 1st 2016, unveiled.
Standing barefoot with arms outstretched, the “Jesus de Greatest” statue is said to be the biggest of its kind on the African soil.
Over 100 priests and hundreds of Catholic worshippers attended the official unveiling in the village of Abajah, Imo State, Southeastern Nigeria.
It was commissioned by Obinna Onuoha, a local businessman who hired a Chinese company to carve it and placed it in the grounds of a 2000-capacity church that he built in 2012.
In his homily at a Mass before unveiling the statue, presiding bishop Augustine Tochukwu Okwuoma said it would be a “very great symbol of faith” for Catholic worshippers and passers-by alike.
“It will remind them of the importance of Jesus Christ,” said Okwuoma.
The cost of the statue has not been revealed.
The statue was built to commemorate the 50th wedding anniversary of a local businessman’s parents. Photo: Handout
Earlier in the week, Onuoha told Agence France-Presse it would be “the biggest statue of Jesus on the continent.”
The 43-year-old boss of an oil and gas distribution company timed the statue’s unveiling to coincide with his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with 170 million people, is split between a more prosperous Christian south and a poor Muslim north – an occasional source of tension.
More than 17,000 people have been killed in Islamist group Boko Haram’s six-year quest to create an independent state but the violence has been mainly confined to Nigeria’s Muslim-majority north.
And even as Nigeria rings in 2016, the ever-present threat of violence by Boko Haram hangs heavy over the country, despite official claims that the battle against the Islamist group has been “technically” won.
“We think religions can exist side by side,” Onuoha said.
“We hope that people can live in harmony.”
He said the idea of building a giant statue of Jesus came to him in a dream nearly 20 years ago.
And when his 68-year-old mother fell seriously ill a few years ago, she made him promise that he would build a Church if she survived.
The statue is a type of a similar one in Brazil; Cristo weighing 635 metric tons (625 long, 700 short tons), and located at the peak of the 700-metre (2,300 ft) Corcovado mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park, overlooking the city of Rio.
Cristo, constructed between 1922 and 1931, is made of reinforced concrete and soap stone.
It is a symbol of Christianity across the world, which has become a cultural icon of both Rio de Janeiro and Brazil. Cristo which is symbolically overlooking Rio as a city under the watch of Jesus Christ, is listed as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.