From Beauty John, Lafia
A Non Governmental Organization, Global Peace Development (GPD) has tasked religious leaders to sensitize and educate followers on religious teachings that promote peaceful coexistence in Nasarawa state.
The Executive Director of GPD, Mr Ebruke Esike gave this charge during a one day community Dialogue with Religious Leaders in Keffi, on Tuesday. Esike, whom noted the diverse ethnic and religious groups in Nasarawa state,
stressed the need for interface and interfaith regular meetings amongst the various religious bodies in order to enhance tolerance.
The meeting which was organised by Global Peace Development in partnership with ActionAid Nigeria and Beacon Youth Initiative, is in pursuance of the System and Structure Strengthening Approach against Radicalisation to Violent Extremism (SARVE II) Project with funding from the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF).
The participants drawn from Jamaatu Nasril Islam (JNI), Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN) , Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Women Wing of Christian Association of Nigeria (WOWICAN) from the State level and all thirteen LGAs observed that Office/political appointment are usually given based on religious orientation or ethnic background.
It was noted that marriage among different religion is rare and usually leads to confrontations or conflict, as they pointed that most people capitalise on religious ignorance which is deterrent to religious teachings.
It was also observed that there is gradual deterioration of religious tolerance and acceptance compared to some years back. And that geographical location of dominance religion determines the acceptance and accommodation of one’s faith.
At the end of the dialogue, they recommended that awareness campaigns on peaceful co-existence should be strengthened among different faith groups and that there should be a regular platform for religious dialogue for mutual understanding. Religious groups were advised to come together periodically, to brainstorm on developmental strides and ways to foster peaceful co-existence and that inter religious and inter- ethnic- communal marriage to be encouraged, adding that there should be neutrality and fairness on the side of government in resolving conflicts. It was also suggested that their should be justice, equality, and fairness in the distribution of state resources and appointment. While all stakeholders should be sensitized to respond quickly on early warning signs capable of disrupting or causing breakdown of law and order in the communities. Dr Zainab T. Ahmed, former Secretary to Nasarawa State Government remarked that Islam and Christianity preach tolerance and peaceful coexistence, therefore , efforts should be geared to sustain such, for development and unity of the state.
Also speaking, pastor Ms. Esther Onyete (CAN) said to ensure gender sensitivity, women should be involved in peace building committee or conflict resolution initiatives.
She added that there should be promotion of peace and accommodation of tolerance and diversity in communities while awareness creation to address illiteracy and ignorance about teaching of Christianity and Islam should be intensified.
Ms. Hassana Musa, representing the Jamaatul Nasril Islamiyya (JNI) opined that moral values should promote commonality stressing that Religious leaders should act as mediators and promoters of peace not hatred.