The immediate past President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) His Eminence, Rev Samson Ayokunle has said the signing of the Declaration for a Peaceful and Secure Nigeria with the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammedu Sa’ad Abubakar, is to help Nigerians live in harmony and in high religious standards.
The signing of the pact took place in Washington DC during an International Religious Freedom Summit.
But on the significance of the pact, Ayokunle said individuals will have different opinions as to the causes of and solutions to the religious crises in Nigeria, adding that the pact will help greatly.
“The Sultan and I have our differences, and we have shared them at length through the Inclusive Security Dialogue of which this Declaration signing was a part, organized by Vision Africa and Global Peace Foundation, with the support of ADF International.
“But far more importantly, we both share a fundamental commitment to the unity of Nigeria and to work collaboratively toward solutions through peaceful and respectful means, affirming the dignity of one another and our brothers and sisters in Nigeria.
“We call upon all religious and political leaders, and all people of faith, to develop and promote solutions that are grounded in the shared values of our common humanity, and which protect and uplift the value, dignity and fundamental rights endowed by God to every person,” Ayokunle said.
“That is why it was so important for the Sultan and I to sign this declaration, and to do so on the world stage at an important international forum,” Ayokunle added.
“I emphasized how we at NIRC had supported a number of initiatives to bring people of different faiths together. We do that through religious education within our faiths. We also encourage learning about the beliefs of other faiths, as well as dialogue, especially amongst youth, so that they see each other as brothers. And we encourage reporting of any kind of violence or violent rhetoric, so that corrective or preventive measures can be effectively taken,” Ayokunle said, adding that the declaration they signed lays out a number of principles all Nigerians can readily affirm.
“It states that “all people are endowed by the Creator with inherent value and fundamental rights, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, culture, religion or the many other differences that often divide us”, and that “essential freedom and dignity of every person must be respected and protected.”
“The Declaration calls for collaboration amongst the “various traditions and faith communities present in Nigeria” in order to ‘advance the well-being of all and to resolve conflicts peacefully’. It also makes clear that we ‘unequivocally reject and condemn all use of violence and coercion to spread or hinder political or religious views and identities, or to demean ethnic, religion, or tribal affiliation’.”
“Especially with the upcoming election, we note our grave concerns that political and government representatives, sometimes religious representatives as well, have not taken seriously their full duty to promote peace and harmony amongst the people of Nigeria, which has contributed to numerous crises for our nation.
“The Declaration then lists out these crises: “concerns of political representation and the possibility of a genuinely democratic governance; questions of judicial integrity and fairness; issues of governmental bias, corruption, and inaction; a grievous lack of security awing to terrorism, militancy, cycles of retaliation, kidnappings for ransom, sexual violence, and significant organized criminal activity; mass hunger and starvation; poor agriculture policies and lack of education for sustainable livestock-raising; mass displacement of people and poor security for them; and a hostile business environment and lack of jobs and education; among others.”
“We finally affirm that “religious leaders play a special role in leading their communities, and have a duty to shepherd their communities in a way that promotes peace.”