From Pwanagba Agabus, Jos
Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State on Monday inaugurated the State Inter-religious Council, with the task to ensure peaceful coexistence and heal wounds of the once crisis ridden state.
The Governor said despite frantic efforts and relative successes made in ensuring peace and stemming the tide of ethno-religious violence, the state is still in dire need of healing.
He equally said the healing is necessary because the citizens of the have remained, “somewhat divided along ethno-religious or tribal lines”, as a result of their experiences of the recent past.
Lalong stated this on the occasion of the commemoration of “Plateau Forgiveness Day” 2021 and inauguration of the Inter-Religious Council held at the Victoria Gowon hall, new government House little Rayfield, Jos, the State Capital.
He said, “Despite the efforts and modest successes recorded at stemming the tide of ethno-religious violence, Plateau State is still in dire need of healing.
“Our people have remained somewhat divided along ethno-religious or tribal lines due largely to the experiences of yesterday”, he decried.
“Yet, we have a golden opportunity to open a new leaf by consolidating on the gains of our efforts within the last six years”, he explained.
According to him, “While we cannot claim that all issues in the heart of the crises have been resolved, we have in our hands the tools that can help midwife the rebirth of a new and united Plateau that is at Peace with itself and neighbours.
The Governor further stated that, “As a State emerging from the ashes of violence, our Rescue Administration decided to set aside February 7 of every year as Forgiveness Day.
He said, “This day reminds us to imbibe and promote the culture of forgiveness as enunciated in the Holy Books.
“The cardinal objective of this day is to achieve enduring peace and harmony as opposed to hate, bitterness, resentment and vengeance which only leads to a vicious cycle of violence”, Lalong explained.
The Governor recalls with nostalgia when first Forgiveness Day commemorated in 2019, adding that he submitted that, “if we imbibed forgiveness, it will eclipse and bury all the wrongs of the past and move us to a new dawn by restoring confidence in our future and ensuring that generations unborn do not repeat our mistakes.
“Let me reiterate that the idea behind the Forgiveness Day is for us to reflect on where we have been; the human tragedy that befell us; the need to appreciate our present situation; and our resolve to craft the kind of a peaceful and secure society we desire.
“My administration clearly understands that many of our people have been hurt and could have also caused pain for others. Many cannot seem to erase the hurt from their mental hard drive and continue to harbour bitterness, resentment, and anger.
He however said, “The choice before us is to either continue in our anger thus spending the rest of our lives in pain and bitterness, or we can choose to be released, healed, and be set free. That is where forgiveness becomes inevitable”.
He acknowledge that, “The stakes are quite high and the need to work in concert through the forging of robust alliances has never been this urgent.
“The age-old maxim says we either work together as a united front to win or we perish as fools. We have no reason to choose anything below peace”, he maintained.
“That is why today we are inaugurating the reconstituted Plateau State Inter-religious Council, a body made up of highly respected religious leaders and experts in the field of conflict mediation and peace building.
According to him, “The inauguration of this non-partisan body is a further demonstration of our administration’s commitment to repairing the broken social fabric of our society through the provision of a structured platform for religious, community, youth and women leaders to play active roles in fostering mutual understanding and cooperation between citizens regardless of ethnic and religious differences.
He stressed that working closely with the Plateau State Peace Building Agency, the State Inter-religious Council will critically think through issues and build consensus on challenges that threaten “freedom, tolerance and peace”.
The Chairman and Co-Chairman of the Inter-religious Council Rev. Prof. Pandang Yamsat, former COCIN President and His Royal Highness Alh. Sambo Mohammed III, Emir of Wase and Chairman JNI, in State.
The members of the Council cut across Christians and Muslims adherence.