Stop the Carnage: Let us Promote a Culture of Peace

Interfaith Council of Muslim and Christian Women’s Groups, Kaduna

Press Statement, Wednesday 27th April 2011

We applaud NIREC for the Press Statement published the 19th April 2011, entitled ‘Stop the carnage’. As the interfaith body of leaders of the major women’s faith-based groups in Kaduna State, we add our voice to the sentiments expressed.

The horrendous and devastating carnage which we have recently witnessed in our State, of brothers and sisters massacring one another across religious and ethnic lines of identity, lies heavy on our hearts. It has torn our society asunder and cannot be justified under any pretext. While it started as an expression of political dissatisfaction, it quickly took on the semblance of a religious affair. The root cause is not religion and the solution cannot only be religious. However, religion and religious leaders certainly have an important role to play in complementing that most vital role of the government to ensure reconciliation, justice and peace.

We call on all the members of our faith groups, all women of faith, to assume our responsibilities as Mothers of a culture of peace and well-being.  Speak to your husbands, your children, your neighbors and your friends. Tell them that violence begets only violence, we must see in each man a brother and in each woman a sister, and we must seek to resolve our disagreements through peaceful means.

We add a strong message of caution to the Federal Government that it must seek to convince all citizens that it is concerned for their welfare. We find it insensitive on the part of our leaders that they should celebrate a victory while simultaneously citizens are killing one another in the name of that victory. Dialogue is not something only NIREC members should participate in; government and leaders at all levels must be open to sincere and respectful dialogue with all citizens.  Dialogue demands an attentive ear. Had our political and religious leaders been attentive and alert to the populace they would likely have addressed the underlying tensions more adequately before they erupted as they did.

The government cannot pretend that things are normal in the country or that it can continue its ‘business as usual’. The government must ensure that those responsible for this carnage are brought to book this time round, regardless of who they may be.

For Nigeria as a country our diversity is our strength. This should refer in particular to our religious and our ethnic diversities.  Other marked diversities exist in our society such as of economic class and social status. In so far as these diversities are lived in such a way that they result in social inequality, injustice and exploitation they must be addressed and eliminated. While the elite of our society, including our political leaders, live in the lap of luxury, poverty and unemployment are the lot of the majority; the consequent hoards of idle youths in our country are major reasons for the violence we have experienced. Corruption and the lack of transparent implementation of policies are among our gravest cancers in Nigeria. Gender difference, although in itself God-given, is also often used to condone or justify oppression and inequality. All of these issues must be addressed in the pursuit of peace and justice.

Our ethnic and religious diversities should be our greatest source of strength because they bring with them so many ethical values and rich cultural expressions and social norms. Unfortunately, it is these same diversities which are too often expressed in bloody and destructive clashes. As religious leaders, of which NIREC is the apex interfaith body in the country, we must clearly and honestly address the causes of these clashes.

Although religion is a principal factor in violent conflict here in Northern Nigeria, as in many other parts of the world today, we are convinced that religion can be invaluable in promoting understanding and reconciliation. This can be done within each religious community but we believe it is particularly effective when it is done at an interfaith level: – Muslims and Christians together drawing and sharing strength and inspiration from their respective faiths, developing mutual understanding, recognizing shared values and interests, and engaging in grassroots efforts to encourage repentance and promote reconciliation. Our two Religions, Islam and Christianity, are invaluable as instruments of reconciliation and of peace because they teach necessary values for co-existence such as peace, forgiveness, mercy, love and so on. Also, because religious leaders carry great authority and are present at all levels of society they can be effective advocates of peace and reconciliation. We believe that we urgently need to exploit that potential of religion here in Northern Nigeria and call on all stakeholders, particularly government, to encourage interfaith platforms at all levels.

NIREC, supported by government, must be seen to be in the forefront of educating the followers, not merely by public statements, but by ensuring means of reaching the grassroots. We applaud the efforts made to establish NIREC at state level and urge that these efforts be intensified. It is not enough for religious leaders to affirm pious platitudes about how much the two religious traditions favor peace and justice; they must also find inspiration in the religious traditions to help adherents work with one another, appreciate each other and trust one another. More honesty and self-criticism is required from the religious leaders about the way they and the adherents of their faith community live in Nigerian society and how religion has been and is used as a catalyst for competition, division and even violence.

Considering that political conflict is quickly transformed into religious conflict, especially in the North, government and NIREC must seriously examine this feature. The problems of the Northern Youth must also be immediately addressed, particularly that of the Almajirai system so that these young people are not used to cause disturbance by a faceless elite.

We pray that God, the Almighty Allah who created us and loves us, will bestow peace in our hearts, minds and country.

Signed:

Interfaith Council of Muslim and Christian Women’s Groups Kaduna

Representing State executives of:

 

JNI, Women’s Wing of CAN (WOWICAN),
FOMWAN, Catholic CWO,
NASFAT Christian Council of Nigeria (Mothers Union),
Ansar Ud Deen, ECWA Womens’ Fellowship,
Women in Da’wah, TEKAN Women’s Wing,
Muslim Sisters Organization (MSO), Organization of African Instituted Churches (OAIC) Women’s Wing,
Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN), Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) Women
Movement for Islamic Cultural Awareness (MICA)

 

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