Chris Steven, Abuja
The Centre for Social Justice, Equity and Transparency (CESJET) has cautioned religious leaders who are fond of hate preaching to desist from using religion to destabilize Nigeria.
Speaking ahead of the Centre’s upcoming roundtable on “The Role of Religious Leaders in Building Inter-Faith Tolerance,” CESJET National Coordinator, Comrade Ikpa Isaac expressed concerns over what he called a recent upsurge in inflammatory utterances around the nation’s religious differences.
Comrade Isaac said the development has become a national challenge that must be addressed quickly, stressing that “unguarded” utterances by religious leaders in the country have further worsened the tension in the country.
He cautioned that such unguarded and inflammatory utterances if not urgently addressed could escalate some existing hostilities that have emanated based on religious differences.
While acknowledging that certain situations, especially the killings by alleged herdsmen across the country could have been resolved through a peaceful approach, he however said when the atrocities were committed, the responses to them from the relevant authorities could also have been better.
“It is however worrisome that the situation has rather taken the artificial division along religious lines to a new level. The conduct and utterances by leaders of the two dominant faiths have not done much to help the situation but they have rather acted to worsen things in the false belief that they will garner more following the more fiery they are perceived to be.
Unfortunately for us the larger population, we do not have the dual nationalities that many of these preachers have, even where we have visas to other countries we possibly do not have the means to relocate ourselves and families like the clergymen do; and we also do not have the economic resilience to weather any negative impacts that a religious crisis would have on the country like those leading us do.” He said
He insisted that the realization that it is the larger population that would suffer negative consequences, has propelled his group to bring Nigerians together to stave off the looming disaster of a religious hostilities.
“The Centre for Social Justice, Equity and Transparency (CESJET) has therefore decided to hold a round table on “The Role of Religious Leaders in Building Inter-Faith Tolerance and to dissect the topic, Love Not Hate, A Symbol of Any True Religion.”
“The event will bring together a group of informed Nigerians from ten states of the federation to brainstorm on how best religious leaders can proffer solutions to Nigeria’s security, economic, social, political and other challenges without heating up the polity or inciting hatred.
“As a guarantee that we are not asking anyone to remain sheepish in the face of existential threats and security breaches, we have invited reputable Nigerian scholars on Peace and Conflict Management from the CSOs circuit and from Nigerian universities to elaborately discuss issues of national unity and peaceful co-existence.
Our hope is that resource persons and participants will do justice to the sessions at the roundtable in a way that will douse the tension in the national space,” he said.