The federal government of Nigeria has said that religious leaders are in good position to put an end to insecurity, economic and health challenges experienced in the country by collaborating with government on the dissemination of policies to their adherents in different communities.
Speaking Thursday in Abuja, while declaring open the first quarterly meeting of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), with the theme: “together we can grow peace for the nation”, Secretary to Government of the Federation, Boss Gida Mustapha, said that NIREC must lead in the creation of awareness among adherents and within communities “in order to build an environment where prejudice, intolerance, violence and other vices shall remain alien to our culture and practices”.
He said: “The theme of this quarter’s meeting is apt; given the myriad of security, health and economic challenges facing the world. The situation in Nigeria today calls for the deepening of political and religious collaboration at all times. Your positions as religious leaders put you in good stead to carry the message from government to all adherents and to our communities. Time is critical for this mission.
“Since your last meeting, the nation has experienced several challenges including a spike in banditry, insurgency, kidnappings, killings and drug abuse. This body should review the state of the nation and recommend ways to improve on the accomplishment of our set objectives. To grow peace in Nigeria, NIREC must, therefore, lead in the creation of awareness among our adherents and within our communities.
“With regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, NIREC should educate Nigerians in all languages on how to improve on personal hygiene, report illnesses and follow medical advisories, avoid frequenting places where fragile people are present, frequently use hand sanitisers, reach the Ministry of Health, among others. Freedom of religion is a right which the government cannot withdraw from the citizens, but leaders must talk in wisdom and mean what they say.”
Speaking earlier, the Executive Secretary of NIREC, Fr. Prof. Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua, said that December 2019 to February 2020 was very challenging for the Council as several media publications suggested that the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs were in conflict, but that it was one of the strategies of terrorists to cause religious war between Christians and Muslims, “which gave rise to the theme of the meeting”.