Religious leaders have been asked to desist from making inciting comments that could threaten the peace of the country at a symposium organised for religious leaders on the Plateau by the Special Task Force Operation SAFE HAVEN (OPSH) today 18 October 2023, at Headquarters 3 Division Nigerian Army (NA) Maxwell Khobe Cantonment, Rukuba Jos.
Delivering his keynote address at the event, the Commander Operation SAFE HAVEN and General Officer Commanding 3 Division NA, Major General AE Abubakar, said the aim of the symposium was to outline the importance of religious leaders as key contributors to peace in the society. He lamented the damages inciting sermons from religious leaders have caused to include fueling tension and anger amongst religious groups.
General Abubakar informed the gathering that the symposium was a platform for constructive discussions on how to leverage on sermons to bring permanent peace to Plateau State. The commander urged the participants to reflect on their sermons and continually preach peace over violence. He further disclosed that the participants were drawn from different religious groups that have shown commitment to a peaceful society.
Delivering a paper on the topic “The Effects Of Incitive Preaching On Peaceful Coexistence On The Plateau” the guest speakers Sheikh Ghazali Ismail, Deputy Chief Imam Jos Central Mosque and Reverend Father Boniface Nkum, Director of Studies Saint Augustine Missionary School Jos, said religious leaders have strong potential to influence their followers. They disclosed that religious stigmatization has caused serious problems in society over the years. In the paper, the guest speakers agreed that government must provide an active platform where religious leaders who makes inciting statements could be reported and sanctioned accordingly.
The guest speakers maintained that interfaith dialogue and education must be encouraged in order to promote harmonious relationship between different religious groups. While calling on the religious advisory committee of the State to wake up to its duties, they added that religious leaders must take responsibility for the messages they convey to their followers.
In their separate remarks, the Emir of Wase and Chairman Jamatul Nasir Islam (JNI) Plateau State, Alhaji (Dr) Muhammadu Sambo Haruna and the Chairman Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Plateau State, Reverend Father Polycarp Lubo, said that government and security agencies must not spare religious leaders encouraging violence by making inciting statements, while maintaining that no one was above the law in the country. They advised that similar symposium should be organised at the local levels to educate people on the need for religious tolerance.
On his part, the Special Adviser on Security to Plateau State Governor, Brigadier General GG Shipi (Rtd), disclosed that there must be public condemnation of preachers of inciting statements especially by followers of same faith. He revealed that the Inter-religious Advisory Council in the State was active to address issues relating to religion and practices.
In his vote of thanks, the Chairman OPSH 55-Man Peace Implementation Committee, Justice Daniel Longji (Rtd), said inciting statements create mob action and urged the participants to promote sermons that encourage unity.
Some of the dignitaries present at the event include; the Emir of Wase and Chairman Jamatul Nasir Islam (JNI) Plateau State, Alhaji (Dr) Muhammadu Sambo Haruna, Chairman Christian Association of Nigeria Plateau State, Reverend Father Polycarp Lubo, Special Adviser on Security to Plateau State Governor, Brigadier General GG Shipi (Rtd), Chairman OPSH 55-man peace implementation committee, Justice Daniel Longji (Rtd), religious leaders of various denominations, Women Wings of CAN/JNI amongst others.