A 40-ton marble statue of Jesus arose for the New Year in the religiously embattled nation of Nigeria, thanks to a wealthy businessman who hopes the Prince of Peace’s message can triumph over sectarian strife.
The 30-foot-high likeness of Christ towers above the St. Aloysius Catholic Church in the mainly Christian village of Abajah, some 300 miles south of Lagos in Nigeria's state of Imo. The country is split roughly 50-50 between Christians and Muslims, and has been plagued by violence from the radical Islamist terror group Boko Haram, which operates in the north.
"We think religions can exist side by side," Obinna Onuoha, an oil and gas magnate who attended Harvard Business School and underwrote the statue, told ChristianHeadlines.com. "We hope that people can live in harmony."
"We think religions can exist side by side."
- Obinna Onuoha, Nigerian tycoon
Dubbed "Jesus de Greatest," the statue was begun in 2013 by a Chinese company commissioned to carve it out of white marble.
Barefoot with outstretched arms, the massive statue is the largest Jesus monument on the continent. Onuoha believes it will draw pilgrims from throughout Africa.
Onuoha, who also built the church, claims the idea of a statue came to him in a dream nearly 20 years ago. The statue was unveiled on New Year’s Day, with an estimated 1,000 people in attendance.
The Nigerian monument is dwarfed by the famous “Christ the Redeemer” statue of Jesus that stands atop Corcovado mountain overlooking Rio de Janeiro. That statue, bult in the 1920s and constructed of reinforced concrete and soapstone, is 98 feet tall and weighs 600 tons.
An even larger statue of Jesus was built in Poland in 2010. That statue, known as “Pomnik Chrystusa Króla,” or Monument of Christ the King, stands 108 feet tall and bears a massive gold crown.
The tallest known Jesus statue in the U.S. is the 52-foot-high “Lux Mundi,” or “Light of the World," structure at Solid Rock Church, a nondenominational church near Monroe, Ohio. Built of steel and polymer and completed in 2012, it replaced a previous statue of Jesus that was struck by lightning and destroyed in 2010.