President Goodluck Jonathan has condemned the use of religion to justify violence against Nigerians saying that to consolidate growth and prosperity as a nation, there is need for dialogue, understanding as well as appreciation of our differences.
Speaking in Sokoto at an international conference on ‘Islam and Fundamentals of Peaceful Co-existence in Nigeria’ jointly organised by the Sokoto State Government and World Muslim League, Jonathan spoke against the backdrop of the violent campaign by the Boko Haram Islamist sect to impose Islam on the country and introduce Sharia as a way of life for the people.
Jonathan represented by Vice-President, Nnamadi Sambo said, “We must do everything in our powers to ensure that religion is neither misused nor abused to justify violence. Our young people must be shielded from teachings which will take them down the path of violence and hatred.
”We have grown to respect and appreciate our faith and beliefs. We have also grown to acknowledge that our strength as individuals and as a nation lies in understanding and appreciating our differences. We cannot now relent. We must also guard against individuals who use faith as an excuse to emphasise our differences.
“Fundamental to this objective is the conduct and teachings of clerics and Imams at the grass root levels. Wherever misguided doctrines and sectarian bias may be introduced deliberately or in error, there should exist a monitoring or peer review mechanism by senior clerics, established organisations or well-meaning individuals to rectify such deviations in time without rancour.
“This is very important because the local clerics exert influence, especially on our children and the youth.”
He also said that the Federal government had continued to promote religious harmony “by constantly engaging the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council, NIREC, jointly chaired by the Sultan of Sokoto and the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria and by taking their advice seriously.
“Through pragmatic ventures, such as the fast expanding indigent children programme, also known as the Almajiri Integrated Education Programme, the Federal Government, in partnership with state governments and Islamic organisations, is making progress in providing quality education at the grass-root and giving opportunity to every Nigerian to have good education.
”I call on all believers to reject religious-motivated violence, advance tolerance and promote mutual understanding. We must emphasise on the imperatives of dialogue as the bedrock of our efforts to sustain peace and advance development. Religion can and should be a fountain of solutions rather than a source of conflict,” he added.
The president further stressed that Nigerians as individuals should not relent in understanding and appreciating their differences.
According to him, the conference theme was not only relevant but represented the reinforcement of government’s consistent efforts to promote inter-religious dialogue and harmony.
”It also greatly underscores our unwavering commitment to the stability and unity of our nation in the face of difficult security challenges in some parts of our country, perpetrated mostly under religious guise,” he added.