The International Center for Interfaith Peace and Harmony (ICIPH) Kaduna, convened a meeting of its stakeholders namely; the JAMA’ATU NASRIL ISLAM (JNI) and the CHRISTIAN COUNCIL OF NIGERIA (CCN) on Friday 15 September 2017 held in the Bouquet Hall of the Halal Fountain Hotel, Kaduna. The meeting was attended by stakeholders from both CCN and JNI state branches in Northern States & Abuja and also by members of the Public and Press, altogether about 60 people. The meeting which was the first one was convened specifically to introduce members of the ICIPH to the stakeholders and to showcase achievement of the organization in its first anniversary of establishment.
- In addition, the meeting was to also to undertake the following activities:
i. To chart a course for smooth implementation of ICIPH programs in 19 States of the North and Abuja.
ii. To draw up strategies for synergy between CCN and JNI in the states so as to fast-track delivery of ICIPH programs.
iii.To come up with concrete proposals for a better relationship between Muslims and Christians throughout the country.
- After some lengthy deliberations on the foregoing issues and in order to boost presence of the ICIPH, the meeting resolved that there was need to step down activities of the organization in the 19 States and Abuja.
- With regard to fostering a better relationship between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria, the meeting resolved that JNI and CCN should work together in the 19 States and Abuja and to develop strategies to nib all potential sources of conflicts from the bud; to control such potential sources of conflicts before they ever happen rather than wait to ameliorate them after they happen.
- The meeting observed that a lot of recommendations on the government white papers on previous conflicts have not been implemented and the offenders punished, thereby giving room for more people to get involved in more circles of violence. The meeting opined that if only those identified in previous reports have been punished, it would have sent correct signals on impunity and would have served as deterrent for others to even dare let alone partake in violence. The meetings resolved that, until justice is done on previous cases of violence, intra and inter-communal strife would most certainly continue to be experienced in the country.
- The meeting also identified some local issues which if not handled properly by the relevant authorities could escalate into major conflicts. Such include but not limited to: arbitrary siting of places of worship (mosques and churches), especially where the undertakers are minority within the community; conversions into religions other than the one individuals are born into; interfaith marriages and issues of inheritance resulting there from; inciting preaching by scholars of both religions, hate or intolerant speeches; or granting permissions for establishment of exclusive religious schools. The meeting emphasized caution on such matters as they are thorny issues and are potential sources of major conflicts.
- As part of the stepping down of ICIPH activities in the states, the meeting recommended for regular interfaith meetings, collective press releases on important religious or national issues including prior discussion of such issues in both churches and mosques, organizing follow-up meetings of stakeholders (JNI and CCN) at the state level, organizing quarterly rotational meetings between CCN and JNI, promoting capacity building projects on peace, organizing annual roundtable meetings between JNI and CCN and developing proper sensitization and advocacy tools for adequate communication between members of the two major faiths.
- Finally, the meeting called on all religious scholars of the two major faiths to mobilize their followers with sincerity and truth, emphasizing on what is common between the two religions rather than what divides them, to admonish their followers to respect the other people’s faiths and to treat them with justice and fairness they deserved.
- The meeting rounded up with a call for the unity of the country and peaceful co-existing between Christians and Muslims throughout Nigeria.
[Published on pg 11 Daily Trust of 19 September 2017]