Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has urged Christian and Muslim youths in country to be champions of peace and to live up to the tenets of their faith and the best values of humankind.
Osinbajo gave the charge on Thursday at the National Muslim and Christian Youth Summit held at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
According to him, this was necessary for the youth to effectively perform their roles as present and future leaders in the society.
“That leadership role extends to being champions of peace, unity and understanding among different tribes and faiths today, and the future belongs to you.
“The greatness of that future will depend on the sacrifices you are prepared to make for the unity and peace of our nation.”
Osinbajo commended the Community and Youth Development and the Christian Youth for Peace and Development Initiative, who organized the summit, for efforts they are making in building peace across religious lines.
“Your associations have continued to build bridges, to fight discrimination and encourage love and unity, with the full knowledge that the great conflict of our time is not between Islam and Christianity but between extremism and human solidarity, between the forces of hate and intolerance and those of empathy and peace.”
Osinbajo said Nigerians were at a historic juncture in their existence as a nation with the religious and ethnic tensions across the country.
“Many are beating the drums of tribal and religious superiority, some even seeking to divide the nation into ethnic zones.
“Yet, our constitution speaks in the clearest and highest terms of our national commitment to equality of all Nigerians regardless of ethnicity, religion or status.
“It speaks of the imperative of all individuals and governments to respect the rights and dignity of every Nigerian.
“Every free nation today has these or similar ideals.
“But constitutional declarations mean nothing unless there are men and women ready to make the personal sacrifices to bridge the gap between rhetoric and constitutional ideals.
“Such men and women are not usually very many. They are few, but the profundity of their actions invariably transforms communities and nations as they bend the arc of history in the direction of unity, peace and progress.”
Vice President recalled the selfless action of an 83-year old Muslim cleric, Imam Abubakar Abdullahi, who saved 262 Christians in his mosque when they were attacked in a village in Plateau State last year.
According to him, the Imam, like the story of the Good Samaritan told by Christ in the Bible, was motivated by “moral courage rooted in a profound recognition of our common humanity.”
In his address, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede said Christianity and Islam share many things in common, insisting that what could make adherents of the two religions live in peace is love for one another.
Oloyede, who is also the Registrar, Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, JAMB, said the ethnic tension and religious bigotry are borne out of the fact that many believers do not understand the tenets of Islam and Christianity.
“If we appreciate Islamic values, including righteousness, generosity, contentment, courage, repentance, etc; we will appreciate the other religions because in them also you have the same characteristics.
“Biblical virtues are also what you will find in the Quran just as you will find Quranic virtues in the bible.”
Also in his address, Secretary-General of the Christian Council of Nigeria, Dr. Ibrahim Wushishi, said people of faith should find it “as one of our obligatory responsibilities to respect our religious differences, while forging peaceful boundaries based on our common humanity.”
In his address of welcome, the National Coordinator of the Community and Youth Development, Tahir U. Tahir, said Christian and Muslim youths from the 36 states in Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory were brought together at the summit to seek ways of making Nigeria remain peaceful.
He explained that the organisation had been working for over two decades and assured of their commitment to peace building across the country.
Others who spoke at the summit were former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, and Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen.