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Senegal President Wade apologises for Christ comments

African Renaissance statue
President Wade believes visitors should be charged to see the statue

Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade has apologised to the Christian minority for comparing a controversial statue to Jesus Christ.

Archbishop of Dakar Theodore Adrien Sarr said the comments had "humiliated" Catholics, leading to angry protests by hundreds of Christian youths in Dakar.

Mr Wade made the comments after imams condemned the statue as "idolatrous".

The $27m (£16.6m) North Korean-built "African Renaissance" statue has also been criticised as a waste of money.

Senegal has a long history of tolerance between majority Muslims and the influential Christian community, who make up some 6% of the population.

We were shaken and humiliated by the comparison which the head of state made between the monument to African renaissance and the representations found in our churches
Theodore Adrien Sarr
Archbishop of Dakar

But the BBC's Tidiane Sy in Dakar says there have been recent warnings that this could be at risk.

Three respected groups have called on the government to be cautious about how it handles religious issues.

President Wade sent his influential son, Karim, who is also a cabinet minister, to deliver a personal apology to Archbishop Sarr after the stone-throwing Christian youths clashed with security forces outside Dakar cathedral on Wednesday.

The archbishop had said: "We were shaken and humiliated by the comparison which the head of state made between the monument to African renaissance and the representations found in our churches."

President Wade had sought to deflect the criticism of his statue on religious grounds by comparing it to the statues of Jesus Christ found in churches.

He hopes that the statue will attract more tourists to the country but many Senegalese feel the money could be better spent.

The statue, intended to symbolise the fight against racism, was Mr Wade's idea and he says he will personally take 35% of the revenue it generates, with the rest going to the state.

When completed early in 2010, it will be bigger than the Statue of Liberty in New York.



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