Worried by the rising wave of hateful religious rhetoric among some clerics in recent times and the implications of such for peaceful co-existence in Nigeria, the Centre for Social Justice, Equity and Transparency (CESJET) Abuja, under the leadership of Barr. Phillip Agbese, in conjunction with the Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies, University of Ilorin, organised a one-day roundtable in Abuja on Wednesday, February 8, 2017.
Themed “Love, Not Hate: The Symbol of Any True Religion”, the roundtable attracted the participation of scholars, clerics, teachers, Civil Society Organisations as well as Muslim and Christian faithful from various parts of the country. The interfaith forum was successful in disseminating the message of peace and inter-faith cooperation among the critical stakeholders, who all agreed that love is the antidote to Nigeria’s ills.
The roundtable attracted the presentations of such resource persons as Dr Udenta O. Udenta, former Director, Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Abuja; Prof. Emmanuel Owe of the Department of Philosophy, University of Nigeria, Nsukka; Dr Domain Tersoo Anyam of the Department of Religion and Philosophy, Benue State University, Makurdi and Associate Prof. Eugene T. Aliagba of the Department of Political Science, Nasarawa State University, Keffi.
Other speakers at the event included Rev. Peecee Paul Chuks of the New Destiny Christian Missionaries, Uztaz Umar Faruk Abdul Basit of Area II Central Mosque, Abuja, Bishop Elijah Ogwu of Covenant Manifestation Deliverance Assembly, Abuja, Shaykh Ibrahim Ismail and Johnson Ondoma, CEO of Holyland Group, Garki, Abuja, all of whom lent their voices to the need to apply caution and promote religious decorum.
In my own presentation, “The Roles of Religious Leaders in Fostering National Cohesion”, the crucial position of love in many religions, from Judaism, Christianity and Islam to even Buddhism was stressed, with relevant scriptural references while the quotes of Arnold Toynbee, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing and Confucius equally set the tone for the discourse.
For instance, like Toynbee, Nigerians should also aver: “We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is clustered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. Love is the key to the solution of the problems of the world.”
The rising tension and tirade that threaten the peace of the country is actually a manifestation of the unrighteous hearts harboured by men and women of religion and power. Everyone therefore owes it a duty to purify his/her heart so that hatred, anger, ill-will and wickedness will be kept at bay. This is because as Confucius rightly posited, “If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the character. If there is beauty in the character, there will be harmony at home. If there is harmony at home, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.”
The roles of religious leaders, I posited, are concerned with promoting peace in the land through praying for the country, educating and guiding their followers, developing attitudes and character that can be emulated by the faithful, communicating peacefully and effectively through the various platforms at their disposal as well as enlightening Nigerians on the consequences of bigotry and the need to put the country first, not sectional interests.
The need of the day is to frontally attack the three enemies of Nigeria that manifest in ethnic zealotry, political harlotry and religious bigotry. Afterall, as Jalaaludeen Rumi, said, “the lamps are different but the light is the same” and all of us are ultimately part of the same nation and humanity.
Based on the submission of Nelson Mandela that “resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies”, I emphasised that extremists on both sides who are filled with hatred will bear it forever because Muslims and Christians will continue to live in Nigeria. The Qu’ranic model of repelling evil with good (i.e. Q.41:34) is recommended while a searchlight was beamed on the activities of the moribund Nigeria Inter-religious Council (NIREC), with its structures and roles in peacebuilding. The urgent need is to revive NIREC by our religious leaders in the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).
Re: The First Class controversy
First class success comes on a platter of gold in most public universities and the internet age has helped students to access sites to get more information on their courses of study. This moment has rubbished the era where greedy students hid materials in the library from one another. – Aina Akindele Oyebanji, Ketu, Lagos State.