— As Sultan Urges Muslim-Christian Solidarity
BY SEGUN ADEBAYO (ABUJA)
The recently concluded two-day conference that was organised by the International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID) in Abuja led to the formal adoption of a draft constitution for the Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Peace (IDFP) and the inauguration of its elected Executive Secretariat to coordinate the Forum’s activities.
According to a press statement signed by Joseph Atang, KAICIID Nigeria Country Expert, “The Coordinate to Achieve 2 conference (CtA2) focussed on ‘Inclusive and Sustainable Interreligious Dialogue in Nigeria,’ as a follow-up to the first meeting (CtA1) which took place in Abuja, Nigeria in September 2016. At CtA1, the participants developed an Action Plan to promote dialogue as a prerequisite for peace and development, and lay the ground for the establishment of an inter-faith dialogue platform in the country.
“The event convened 100 Nigerian religious, traditional, youth and women leaders from across the country in interreligious and intra-religious dialogue sessions. The CtA2 participants resolved to work together towards inter- and intra-religious activities to mitigate the ongoing tensions and conflicts in the country through enhanced dialogue.”
the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, expressed his determination” to always be a part of these efforts to build peace and dialogue among Nigeria’s religious communities and applauded KAICIID’s support, stating, “I commend KAICIID for its support and other religious leaders who are working hard to achieve peace in our country. All religions preach peace and all Nigerian Muslims are desirous of the peace and stability of our country Nigeria. He tasked the IDFP to commence the process of formal registration and to also reach out to prominent persons who may contribute to achieve the NIDF’s goals.”
Speaking at the formal launching of the IDFP, the Prelate of Methodist Church, Bishop Samuel Chukwuemeka Uche, who represented the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev Dr. Samuel Ayokunle, expressed the willingness of Christians to work in harmony with Muslims to achieve peace in the country.
KAICIID’s Head of Delegation, Abderrahman El-Yessa, commended the fruitful interaction demonstrated during the event and called upon the nation’s leaders of all religions to rise up and stave off violence. “The world is watching Nigeria. There are many challenges here in Nigeria, but with the willingness of the religious leaders to work together for peace and dialogue towards a more cohesive society, there is hope. KAICIID will continue to work hand in hand with the Nigerian stakeholders to promote peace and social cohesion in Nigeria and other parts of Africa,” El-Yessa said.
At the opening ceremony, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, the main spiritual leader of the Muslim communities in Nigeria, has declared that Nigerian Muslims and Christians can live in peace only if they resolve to stand for peace and unite against hate preachers, who are enemies of peace.
“I have not lost hope in this country; I believe that Christians and Muslims can live peacefully. You cannot change a man overnight and it is critical that we continue to show love to each other, irrespective of our world views. We cannot be preaching one thing and be doing another,” the leader of Nigeria’s Muslims said.
“We must tell ourselves the truth irrespective of the religious divide we find ourselves in. Those who don’t want peace are out to cause trouble. We must rally round the government to assist it deal with the enemies of peace in this country. Those who are encouraging violence are not following the true teaching of Christianity and Islam.”
Calling on religious leaders not to engage in encouraging violence in any form, the Sultan declared that considering the respect and authority commanded by religious leaders, both Muslim and Christian leaders should be at the forefront of promoting peace through respect for one another.
“I have never picked up the microphone to insult any Christian leader. We should be tolerant of one another and work towards achieving peace in this country. I have never lost hope in this country as far as the search for peace is concerned. No matter what happens, those championing peace will succeed at the end of the day,” declared Sultan Abubakar.
The Sultan said that Muslim leaders would continue to work with Christian leaders to bring peace to Nigeria. “We are the only ones who can work and bring peace for us. We must have a commitment among us to live in peace, work in peace and bring peace. We believe in dialogue. If we do not believe in dialogue, we won’t be here”.
Applauding the efforts of KAICIID in organizing the conference, Sultan Abubakar III tasked participants in the conference to ensure the implementation of all the conference’s recommendations. Among the recommended activities at an intra-religious level, Christians resolved to visit various churches and organise joint prayers and sport events for youth to create awareness for peace among different denominations. Muslims proposed intra faith summer camps and asked the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs to create spaces for leaders of communities to meet regularly and to facilitate legislation on hate speech at the National Assembly.
The International Dialogue Centre acts as a facilitator in Nigeria to help strengthen social cohesion, particularly among Muslims and Christians, as well as between them, to coordinate and support local capacities of religious communities to actively contribute to conflict resolution and reconciliation in the region through interreligious peace building.