By: Mayen Etim
KADUNA, North-West, Nigeria – The Country Expert, King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, (KAICIID), Mr. Joseph Atang, has said that religion is the ultimate key to peace in the society, saying every religion particularly the two practiced in Nigeria; Christianity and Islam both emphasized peace.
He stated this at a two-day training supported by KAICIID and Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Peace, (IDFP), on Interreligious Dialogue for Leaders of Fellowship of Christian Students of Nigeria, (FCS) and Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria, (MSSN), held in Kaduna on Friday.
Atang said that if religious leaders can be made to preach and propagate peace to their followers in churches and Mosques, peace will reign in the country as they are key to sustaining peace, hence, his organization is working with them in the country.
According to the expert, participants at the training are expected to return home with a different mindsets about their religions, particularly as it concerns the protection of holy sites, and hate speeches; noting that there were lots of hate speeches going on now in Nigeria,
“Our youth are being indoctrinated on both sides. So we want them to leave this training with a clear message of what their religions truly say about hate speeches, speaking bad of any person or religion. They should also carry the message back to their colleagues,” he said.
Speaking on 2019 elections, Atang explained that the training is another way through which KAICIID works with youth all over Nigeria, using all kinds of platforms. He added that his organization is embarking on a nationwide campaign against electoral violence, visiting five states in the country; Benue, Kaduna, Plateau,Taraba and Zamfara states.
“While in these states, KAICIID will engage with all kinds of stakeholders, particularly on the 2019 elections and the herdsmen/farmers crises. We will single out the youth to address them on anti-violence elections, among others.
“The youth are useful in every conflicts not only on elections. You don’t see old men involved in herdsmen/farmers conflicts. The youth are being used in political rallies, they are the ones used for destruction of politician’s property, so they are key players in this,” he added.
In his remarks, a Director of IDFP, Imam Mohammed Ashaffa, said that the subject of discussion; “Towards Prevention of Hate Speeches and Protection of Sacred Places”, is timely and a very important tools.
Imam Ashaffa said that today in Nigeria, it is very difficult to separate the wheats from the chaffs in terms of what actually is religion or not.
He added that in our actions, behavior, what we do and how we do them is becoming a contentious issues, hence, faith is placed in a very dangerous phenomenon, and urged the participants as future leaders of Nigeria to draw a line on who is their role model.
Earlier, the convener of the event, former National President of MSSN, Muhammad Muhammad, said as a leader he has interacted with non-Muslims across all divides and have seen that there were gaps in terms of understanding of the teachings of both religions.
He said that the Muslims do not understand exactly what Christianity teaches, as well as the Christians do not understand what Islam teaches, hence both based their relationship on stereotypes.
According to him, the irony of it is that Nigerians are said to be religious but ungodly. He added that it is not possible for one to be religious and be ungodly, saying something has gone wrong, it is either followers of both religions are not properly observing the tenets their religions, hence, they are ungodly.
“So, we intend to use this training for interaction as students, and members of FCS and MSSN to get to understand one another. And also hold the country on our palms for development, because without peace there will be no meaningful development,” he said.
A participant, the Public Relations Officer, MSSN, Ahmadu Bello University, Miss Rukayat Goni, who commended the organizers of the program, said her knowledge on how to manage conflict and also to bring about peace in her immediate community has been challenged.
Similarly, President of FCS, Kaduna Polytechnic, Mr. Victor Matthew, said the training is a peace orientation program for him where they are taught on what peace is all about.
According to him, as students leaders if they can get it right in the place of peace, the country will be a better place because when there is peace there will be high tendency of understanding.