Onaiyekan, Sultan Warn Religious Leaders against Unguided Utterances

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Paul Obi in Abuja
The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Metropolitan See, John Cardinal Onaiyekan and the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, yesterday called on religious leaders in Africa and Nigeria especially, to be mindful of their utterances to their followers, as development cannot be attained in an atmosphere of conflicts.

The Sultan also called on Muslims and Christians who constitute about 90 per cent of Nigeria’s population to constructively engage those in authorities to be just and fair to all Nigerians no matter their faith and religion.

The Sultan who was represented by the Wazirin Kastina, Alhaji Sani Lugga, at a two-day African Union Interfaith Forum with the theme: ‘leap of faith: religious leaders advance justice peace, security, inclusiveness dialogue and development in Africa,’ stated that “religious leaders in the continent have prominent roles to play in achieving the needed peace.”

Onaiyekan, who was also represented by Rev. Sister Agatha Ogochukwu Chikelu, said all hands must be on deck to rid the world of conflicts and wars, “especially as they claim some religious motivation or excuse, and work towards peace and harmony in our modern world.”

He appealed to the “member countries of the AU to support the interreligious councils in their respective nations. Such support will not only put them in the position to play their constructive roles in promoting religious peace and harmony in their nations, but also enable them to contribute effectively to the work of the ACRL on the continental level.

“Despite the poverty of many of our nations, let everyone know that this is surely one good way to spend scares national resources,” Onaiyekan stated.

The Secretary General of KAICIID, Faisal Bin Muaammar, revealed that most young people in Nigeria join the dreaded group, Boko Haram, because they are misled, stating that “because they seek social, political or economic gain” according to research conducted with partners.

“The religious leaders tell us that those who manipulate religion to incite violence are motivated by greed, or by political or by personal motives. They do not speak in the name of any religion.
“In fact, a study we recently conducted with partners, found that young people join Boko Haram in Nigeria because these young people are misled or because they seek social, political or economic gain.”

Myanmar said: “Thesituation of religions in Africa is currently at a delicate position. The continent is facing a lot of challenges due to the mobilisation and politicisation of religion leading to the rise of fundamentalist groups who breed and encourage violence as they claim to act in the name of religion.

“This violent image of religion generated by such groups is a leading cause of intolerance, sectarian violence and the destabilising of societies in the region and elsewhere in the world.”
Head of Civil Society Division (CIDO) of AU,  Ambassador Jalel Chelba, explained that  the primary objective of the forum is to oversee the establishment of a permanent steering committee, which will link policy makers with religious leaders.

“The steering committee that this forum will elect will have a mandate and will therefore be responsible in the development of communication mechanisms between religious leaders, through interfaith councils and the AU,” he added.