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Clerics resolve to stem violence in Nigeria

Observers say that the sheer scale of violence during the public disturbance was horrendous and could be likened to stone-age barbarism. Those gory events are…

Observers say that the sheer scale of violence during the public disturbance was horrendous and could be likened to stone-age barbarism.

Those gory events are behind us now but their echoes keep reverberating.

Penultimate week, clerics of different religious faiths, under the aegis of the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), met in Bauchi for their first quarterly meeting this year.

NIREC was established by the Federal Government to promote peace in the country by creating a better rapport between the different religious groups in Nigeria.

At the meeting, NIREC’s Co-Chairmen, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto, and Archbishop John Onaiyekan, the National President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), emphasised the need to stop the recurring ethno-religious crises in the country.

The Sultan, who particularly expressed concern over the frequency of crises in northern states such as Bauchi, Borno and Plateau, described the trend as “unacceptable”.

He said: “we have witnessed so many loss of lives and property, wanton killings of human beings; we need to ask ourselves why we always have such violence in the northern parts of the country.’’

Onaiyekan, on his part, attributed the incessant crises in the country to political, socio-economic rivalries and selfishness.

He noted that the perpetrators of the crises operated under the guise of religion, stressing that NIREC would, however, strive to unmask their real intentions.

“We need to face squarely religious dimensions of the conflicts around us,’’ Onaiyekan said.

“We must continue to jointly and unanimously condemn the evil behaviour and disorderly conduct of people and groups, who claim loudly that they are acting in the name of their faith or in the name of God.

“We must sincerely identify, isolate and disown all troublemakers within our ranks.

“Only then shall we be fully equipped to play our positive role of promoting the values of peace, justice, mutual respect and harmony, which both Christians and Muslims profess and preach,’’ he added.

The archbishop admonished politicians to stop manipulating people to achieve their selfish interests, while advising the people to be wary of those who used religion to pursue personal agendas.

Gov. Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State, who formally opened the meeting, shared Onaiyekan’s sentiments.

The governor said that those who killed people were not of God since the two major religions in the country preached against violence.

Yuguda, however, expressed concern over the engagement of youths by some unscrupulous politicians to foment trouble.

A renowned Islamic scholar, Ustaz Idris Kanti, however, stressed the need to take more pragmatic measures to end the incessant religious disturbances in the country.

“Community and religious leaders must educate their followers on the need to live in peace with one another, while allowing peace and stability to reign,” he said.

“Peace building is a collective responsibility and we must contribute towards its achievement,’’ he added.

Alhaji Muhammed Abdullahi, who is the National President, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), urged Nigerians to live harmoniously with each other.

“It is regrettable that such calamities recurred when machineries were being put in place to rebuild Plateau State as a result of past eruptions.

“We as a people must find a common ground to share ideas, knowledge and experiences to achieve peace and rebuild the frontiers and foundations of friendship,” he said

The Sultan had some kind words for CAN for organising a seminar in Abuja recently, where he presented a paper before a largely Christian audience.

He challenged Muslims to organise similar conferences and invite the CAN leadership to present papers, as part of efforts to consolidate the peace initiatives.

Mindful of some criticisms concerning the relevance of NIREC, especially in the face of the recurring crises, the Sultan stressed that NIREC would always strive to accomplish its goal of fostering the country’s peace and unity.

Keen observers hold the view that the criticisms informed NIREC’s resolve, in its communique at the end of the meeting, to urge the Federal Government to punish the perpetrators of the Plateau crisis and other crises in the country.

NIREC said in the communique: “Punishing the perpetrators, promoters and facilitators of the crisis would serve as deterrent to others.’’

The council also urged the Federal Government to compensate the victims of the Plateau crisis and other disturbances, to mitigate their losses.

‘’NIREC also resolved to caution reckless religious preachers who give inciting sermons without regard to the feelings of others and, therefore, fan the embers of religious misunderstanding and disturbances,’’ the communique said

It urged adherents of the Christian and Muslim faiths to adopt dialogue as means of promoting understanding and peaceful coexistence.

The communique stressed the council’s commitment to the pursuit of practical actions that would resolve religious conflicts in the country.

NIREC particularly urged the media to strive to promote issues that would engender the country’s unity and development in its reportage.

The council also urged the government to take tangible steps to alleviate poverty in the country via the provision of steady electricity, good roads, basic infrastructure and a good health care system.

Many observers have been commending NIREC for its efforts to evolve proactive measures that would stem ethno-religious conflicts, particularly in the northern part of Nigeria.

They, nonetheless, argue that the council’s recommendations should not be ignored by the country’s political leaders, who should be willing to demonstrate the requisite political will to act on them.  (NANFeatures)

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