Cordiality among Christian and Muslim leaders is not percolating to the folks downstairs as to stop violence between religious groups in the country because such is not part of their collective consciousness, the Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Peace has said. Speaking for the forum at a press conference in Abuja Thursday, Alhaji Kunle Sanni and Bishop Dr Sunday Onuoha, the co-chairmen said it is only in the aftermath of violence and the folks see Cardinals, the Sultan, the Imams, pastors and other religious leaders visiting in group that such awareness dawns on them. What that means, according to the co-chairmen, is that all cordiality among the leaders of the two religions remains essentially urban big grammar as far as the masses in the country side are concerned, a situation which they say would need reinforced advocacy to dismantle.
While assuring that the forum would soon unleash such reinforced advocacy, the co-chairmen would want politicians to stop exacerbating differences, saying that both Islam and Christianity are all of Abrahamic origin, with none preaching violence. They stated that no amount of preaching or Jihad would turn Nigeria into any of the two dominant religions because God himself did not will it so. “We will remain a multi-religious country forever. God has made some people Christians and some people Muslims and it is no one’s business to fight for God”, the two leaders chorused.
Asserting that the children of the politicians around whom thuggery and hooliganism revolve are not in the country but safely outside, the forum leaders also point out how religious but ungodly some of the politicians are and why people should not allow themselves to be manipulated by such politicians.
Fingers were not only pointing at politicians but the also at promoters of the phenomenon of almost everyone becoming a pastor, an Imam or a preacher. Elaborating on why nothing drastic could be done about this even as the hierarchy of power in both religions have spoken against it, Bishop Onuoha said the problem is that no one can determine who has been inspired or called to such service and who has not. What, in the case of Christianity, is however being demanded is the need for all those who have been inspired to be processed through a system of tutelage or mentoring. This, he said, is nothing different from capacity building for professionalism.
The forum leaders were, however, softer on the government especially on herdsmen violence, saying the government’s effort might not be enough but that it is trying. What the co-chairmen want is for security agencies to have people to show as being held responsible for their action in terms of herdsmen violence. The co-chairmen equally privileged good governance with particular reference to justice, equity and human rights as what is missing in terms of conditions for peace and security in Nigeria. In the same way, they see a silver lining in the dark clouds, calling on Nigerians to be hopeful about the future rather than give in to despair enveloping the country. “We believe that destiny has brought us together as people of this great country to live together in one united country”, they said.
The two introduced the Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Peace, (IDFP) as a Nigerian interfaith and inter-cultural dialogue forum established in January 2017 within a process facilitated by the Vienna based International Dialogue Centre, (KAICIID) founded by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Republic of Austria, the Kingdom of Spain and The Vatican. IDFP, on the other hand, has members drawn from the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, (NSCIA) and the Christian Association of Nigeria, (CAN). The Press Conference took place at The Kukah Centre in Wuse, Abuja.