Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, has called on religious leaders who are very active on social media not to allow it to become an instrument of war.
He urged them to use the social platform to promote peace and kindness.
Osinbajo stated this in his address at the Interfaith Tolerance Dialogue organised by the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) yesterday in Abuja.
“I want to say in particular about social media that we absolutely need to be careful with our use of social media.
“If we do not want to promote the kind of conflict that can completely go out of hand, we must be sure that we are policing ourselves and regulating ourselves on social media.
“I don’t think that government regulation is necessarily the way to go, but I believe that we as persons of faith, as leaders and those of us who use social media actively, owe a responsibility to our society and to everyone else to ensure that we don’t allow it to become an instrument of conflict and war”
Osinbajo has said that all human beings, regardless of faith or ethnicity, desire to be valued, loved, and given the basics of life– food, shelter and clothing sufficient for self and family.
According to the vice president, a great deal of inter-religious dialogue tends to focus on mediating the differences between various creeds without emphasis on common threads.
“However, I do feel sometimes that we do not speak enough about these common threads and those common things that bind us.
“That all human beings regardless of faith or ethnicity desire much the same things, to be valued, loved; treated with dignity and fairness, to possess at least the basics of life – food, shelter and clothing sufficient for self and family.
“As we have heard that the Golden Rule, love thy neighbour as thyself or do unto others as you would have them do to you, occurs in every major religion even in some iterations of secular constitutions.
“It is significant that there is a truth which adherents of different faiths can confidently claim as belonging specifically to their creeds and to all of us collectively as people of faith.
“Treating people the way we would like to be treated imposes a moral obligation on us to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes before we act; this is the very definition of empathy.’’
Osinbajo said that an understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for example, reveals that Christianity is the establishment of a relationship of love, forgiveness and reconciliation between God and man.
According to Osinbajo, the gospel goes on to say that it is a liar who says he loves God but hates his neighbour.
“Now love is a sacrificial act; it requires self-sacrifice; which is why what Imam Abubakar Abdullahi did is deeply exemplary.
“When a band of herdsmen came into his village to kill Christians, he put them in his home and in the mosque and said they had to kill him first if they wanted to kill the Christians.
“He put his life on the line for what he believed.
“Our religious leaders must accept that we must go beyond rhetoric, beyond talking about tolerance, we must make the sacrifices required.’’
He said that as gatekeepers of the public mind, the media played a very crucial role in shaping the perception of the differences.
The vice-president said that the media platforms should be used to amplify measured voices of reason instead of using them to amplify the voices of divisive hate-mongers.
He said that religious leaders, media personalities and people of faith in general shared a common calling to apprehend the truth.
“One truth that our diverse moral traditions agree on is the Golden Rule.
“It is, in many respects, the primary ethic and as we commit to practically living it out, we will bring a kinder, safer and more peaceful world into being,’’ he said.
Earlier in his in his address of welcome, Dr Fahad Al Taffaq, UAE Ambassador to Nigeria, said that the gathering was aimed at building mutual understanding and respect among people of different backgrounds.
He said that the world was increasing globalised which; hence the importance of remaining more united than ever.
Al Taffaq said that Christianity was flourishing in the UAE as there were no fewer than 31 churches in the country.
Featuring in the first panel discussion with the topic, “Love Thy Neighbour: Strategies to Nurture a Plural Society, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, decried the abuse of religion for selfish interests.
Represented by Rev. Fr Rowland Nwakpuda, the cardinal said that good neighbourliness was illustrated by Jesus’ story of the good Samaritan in the Bible.
On her part, Prof. Sadatu Liman, said that religion was a mechanism to checkmate the society.
She said there was a need to build a society where adherents of both dominant religions in Nigeria would live side by side without discrimination.
In the second panel discussion, with the topic, “The Role of Media in Reporting Conflict,’’ Alhaji Yakubu Mohammed, Director-General, Nigeria Television Authority, said that sometimes the media became willing tools in the hands of perpetrators of religious conflicts.
Represented by Mr Ayo Adeoye, Deputy Director, News, Mohammed urged the media to make constructive criticisms that would promote unity and national cohesion.
Also, Mr. Kelvin Momoh from the African Independent Television, said the media needed to give both sides of a conflict a voice in reporting the story.