From Noah Ocheni, Lokoja
The Resilience Programme Coordinator of Actionaid Nigeria, Mr. Anicetus Atakpu, on Tuesday in Lokoja, called on political and religious leaders and other stakeholders in the country to embrace religious tolerance for a lasting peace in the country.
The none-governmental organization, whicj expressed worry at the growing spate of insecurity across the country, traced some of the problems to absence of religious tolerance.
Mr. Atakpu made the call at a one-day religious dialogue organized by Actionaid Nigeria in collaboration with Participation Initiative For Behavioural Change in Development (PIBCID), with funding from Global Community Engagement and Resilience Funds.
He described religious leaders as strong catalysts for the prevention of violent extremism, stressing the need for them to latch on their strong influence on their followers in strengthening peace-building and preventing violence in the country.
Atakpu who said the aim of the program was to strengthen the capacity of the community against violent extremism in Kogi and Nasarawa states, however, commended the people of Kogi state for tolerating each other irrespective of their religion adding, that over the years, Kogi State did not recorded any religious crisis.
He said the program was to further prevent actions inimical to the peace of the state stressing that, Actionaid Nigeria through it’s SARVE II Project in the last two years, had engaged and integrated over 20,000 youths across the state on beach and nation building.
According to him, within the year in review, ActionAid Nigeria has been able to put in place community response teams to identify points of conflict and to avoid such from escalating.
He also said the programme centred on changing the mentality of the youth towards violent extremism, adding that when conflict occurs, women and children suffer major casualties.
Earlier in her welcome address, the Executive Director of Participation Initiative for Behavioural Change in Development, (PIBCID), Halima Oiza Sadiq, explained that the dialogue aims at reducing vulnerability and risk of young men and women during violence.
The Dialogue’s aims according to her is to intensify actions towards improving enabling environment, as well as supporting communities against injustices and inequalities through building tolerance to mitigate against violent extremism.
Speaking at the event, the Kogi-East Zonal Coordinator of Jamaatu Nasril Islam (JNI), Alhaji Mohmmed Idris, alleged that the European over the years, had misled the government, advising that knowledge of the Christian and Islamic religion should be made compulsory for admission to tertiary institutions.
In a related development, the Kogi State Christian Association of Nigeria, (CAN), Assistant Secretary, Rev. Frank Paul Oluwatimileyin, maintained that the two major religions in Nigeria, share major ideologies which are symbols of peace, love, humanitarian service and respect each others’ beliefs.