Just last week, Nigerian youngsters gathered in Abuja, under the umbrella of National Christian and Muslim Youth Summit. Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila in a message to the youths, tasked them on religious tolerance. JOSHUA EGBODO, writes
The volatile state of security in Nigeria has been of great concern to many citizens. From the raging insurgency in the north east, emergence of armed banditry and kidnapping in the north west, which is far spreading into other areas of the country, and other violent crimes, the case for religious tolerance, according to many can therefore not be over emphasized. To many analysts, religious differences have for years provided fertile grounds for hostility around the country.
Gbajabiamila’s clarion call
The Speaker in his message to participants at the Summit, urged them to shun religious violence and resist the temptation of killing innocent people in the name of religious adherence. He further urged that they should not allow themselves to be used by politicians to cause trouble along religious lines. The call has been described by many as commendable.
Gbajabiamila expressed pains that some people have adopted the use of religion to cause mayhem in Nigeria, which also to many was a very clear statement of fact. He however cautioned that “this should not be the case because we are all human beings and were created by God”.
Represented at the Summit by his Deputy, Hon. Idris Wase, Gbajabiamila further tasked the youths to see religious tolerance as the watchword, whether they separately belong to the Christian or Muslim faiths, as according to him, both Islam and Christianity are religions of peace and adherents of both faiths believe in resurrection, judgment and paradise (heaven).
The youths as catalysts to achieving lasting peace
The Speaker was of the opinion that if the nation can achieve such tolerance in the youths, many of the nation’s challenges in terms of security would be close to have been resolved. His words; “I believe if we get it right with the youths, we would have solved at least 50 percent of the nation’s problems.
“In a secular state such as ours, religious tolerance should be the watch word. We must appreciate the fact that we are all created by one God and must resist the temptation of engaging in inter religious crisis and continuous killing of innocent people in the name of religion.
“If the youths, who are often engaged by unscrupulous persons to perpetrate violence get to understand and apply what both faith teaches, sponsors of such crimes will not see anyone to enlist for evil.
“In fact, it is good to know and recognise that there are moral values that Christians and Muslims have in common- such as honouring the sanctity of life and the importance of respect in relationships, decent speech and behaviour.
Timeliness, appropriateness of Summit
In the opinion of Gbajabiamila and many more Nigerians, the joint Summit was an appropriate venture, as well as timely in view of the current challenges facing Nigeria.
“I thank the organisers of this summit for convening such a wonderful meeting for youths of the two dominant religions to gather together and brainstorm on how best to promote religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence between the two.
“This is a laudable initiative, which must be commended because if we are able to properly educate our youths on the tenets of the faith they profess, some of the crises Nigeria is prone to would be solved”, the Speaker submitted.
Legislative intervention pledged
Beyond the meeting and its target at achieving lasting peace in the country, the Speaker also promised legislative interventions that will address issues of youth development.
“I want to assure you that the leadership of the 9th House of Representatives is very much interested in the welfare of our youths and will continue to support the youth by making laws that could help create job opportunities, so that our youths will be meaningfully engaged”, he stated.
The Imam Abdulahi’s example
In tune with the idea behind last week’s summit, and Gbajabiamila’s message, followers of such recent developments has pointed out the action of 83-year-old Islamic cleric, Imam Abubakar Abdulahi, who during an onslaught by alleged Fulani herdsmen in some communities in Plateau State, hid 262 Christians in his mosque to save them from being killed by the marauders.
Specifically, reports then were that Abdullahi on June 23, 2018, provided shelter for the Christians who were fleeing attacks from Muslim herdsmen who had launched coordinated attacks on local farmers, predominantly Christians in about 10 villages of the Barkin Ladi area of Plateau State.
The Imam’s gesture was to later earn him an honour, alongside other world religious leaders by the government of the United States of America (USA). Imam Abdullahi, along with four religious leaders from Sudan, Iraq, Brazil and Cyprus, were awarded the 2019 International Religious Freedom Award, an honour usually reserved for advocates of religious freedom.
A case of prophet lacking honour at home?
Many advocates of religious tolerance in Nigeria have blamed the failure of Nigerian government to recognise the action of Imam Abdulahi as wrong, and a move that had potentials to dampen such gestures from other leaders. It was therefore seen as the proverbial saying that a prophet usually lacks honour in his place. Such pundits commended the government of the USA for recognizing the Imam’s kind gesture.
They argued that beyond the social media accolades on the octogenarian cleric, there was yet to be known record of any official honour to him.
In the opinion of such advocates, the joint youth summit for adherents of the two leading religions, Gbajabiamila’s admonition, as well actions such as that of Imam Abdulahi’s should be encouraged from all quarters, in order to achieve religious harmony, absence of which is one of the security threatening phenomenon in Nigeria.