The Kaduna State Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has called for more inter-religious dialogue, describing it as very crucial to resolving conflicts in the country.
Its Secretary General, Rev. Sunday Ibrahim, told newsmen on Monday in Kaduna that regular dialogue between Muslim and Christian leaders would breed mutual confidence and ward off mutual suspicion and distrust.
Describing religion as a major factor in human relations, he said that interfaith mediation was a veritable tool in conflict mitigation, management and resolution.
“The country has been sharply polarised along two major religions – Islam and Christianity; this explains why any minor conflict, even between individuals, quickly takes a religious dimension.
“A little misunderstanding between two adherents of the two religions, which can be tackled by security agencies, is easily seen along religious lines; that fuels the tendency for its escalation into unmanageable proportions.
“Once religion is brought in, a minor quarrel could snowball into a massive crisis in a matter of seconds.
“The only effective strategy in managing such situations is through inter-religious dialogue. Without such dialogue, people tend to exploit the distrust to create chaos over issues that can easily be sorted out,” he said.
He identified politicians, some religious and community leaders, security agencies and government officials as major drivers of conflict in Nigeria.
“Politicians use religion to attract the support of the electorates; they equally use it to fight political opponents. The sole goal is to keep the people permanently divided along religious lines.
“In some instances, government officials introduce sentiment, bias, favouritism and other devices to pit one group against another. Such situations breed conflicts that are often difficult to manage,” he said.
He said that religious and community leaders also instigate conflicts by inciting their followers and subjects against other groups, stressing that only constant dialogue could neutralise such mischief.
The CAN scribe said that the association, in partnership with Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), faith-based organisations and other relevant stakeholders had managed and resolved many conflicts over time.
Ibrahim called for religious tolerance among Nigerians, and advised people to see themselves first as Nigerians.
He equally advised governments against delving into religious matters, pointing out that political office holders were elected or appointed to serve the country and not to defend or protect religions.
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