The Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Peace (IDFP) has called for the protection of worship places across the country.
The forum made the call on Tuesday in Abuja during a workshop on the “Protection of Holy Sites” organised by the IDFP in collaboration with the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID).
Co-Chairman of the forum, Alhaji Kunle Sanni Ishaq, said records have shown that terrorists have destroyed or partially damaged no fewer than 13,000 churches and 25,000 mosques as at the last count.
He said that the protection of holy sites is part of measures to tackling insecurity across the country.
He also said that worship centres were holy sites and as such should remain as safe havens for worshipers, protected under the principles of religious freedom.
“Christian and Muslim communities were facing insecurity, exacerbated by incessant killings and maiming of religious adherents. The situation had degenerated into the destruction of places of worship and worshipers.
“Muslims and Christians now join to protect the monuments in places like Kaduna, Kano and Maiduguri. Muslims go to churches to ensure that they are not burnt down, just as Christians do the same to their Muslim counterparts,” Ishaq said.
In his goodwill message, Agustin Nunez of the KAICIID, urged participants to positively contribute their quota to ensure that worship places and holy sites are protected from destruction.
On his part, Co-Chairman of the forum, Bishop Sunday Ndukwo Onuoha, lamented that freedom of worship was being violated when people desecrate worship places and waste lives amid huge collateral damage.
“Globally, we are seeing a rising wave of religious intolerance, which has led to violence targeting worshipers of different faiths. Muslims have been killed in mosques and their religious sites vandalized.
“In the same way, many Christians have been killed during prayers and their churches set ablaze. In the face of the tragedies, our cultural heritage has been affected because, for most people, their religious beliefs and form of worship remain their core identification and heritage,” Onuoha said.
Speaking on “Nigeria’s Experience on Protection of Holy Sites: Role of Religious Leaders and Communities -Islamic Perspective”, the National Chief Imam of Al-Habibiyyah Islamic Society, Imam Fuad Adeyemi, lamented that poor and insensitive government has been a major cause of the crisis that leads to the destruction of worship places in the country despite their being holy sites.
He said that the division between Muslims and Christians in the country is now being used by both politicians, ethnic and tribal bigots to achieve their negative aims, hence the need for the resolution of the differences.