From Okwe Obi, Abuja
In a bid to contain the outbreak of religious crises in the country, an NGO, Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Peace (IDFP), has commenced the establishment of early warning detecting centres across Nigeria.
IDFP Co-Chair, Central Coordinating Council, Ameer Muhammed, who addressed newsmen in Abuja after a 5-day training for religious leaders on early warning response mediation and interreligious dialogue, revealed that 5 centres have been created in Taraba, Benue, Kaduna, Zamfara and Plateau States.
Muhammed stated that governors of the aforementioned states had indicated an interest to work with the organisation to foster a harmonious relationship.
He added that Oyo, Abia, Rivers and Nasarawa would be the next phase for the establishment of the centres.
The Islamic cleric explained that reason for employing the services of religious leaders to head the centres was because of their standing with their followers, saying that they are well-placed to positively change the minds of their followers.
‘We have realised that one thing that is missing in all the insecurity prone states in the country is an interfaith team that is concerned about early warning signs that have the potentialities of igniting violent conflict around the states,’ he stated.
‘We have come up with an intervention to train religious leaders and establish an interfaith team that will be concerned about the early warning and early responses so as to mitigate violent conflicts before they happen.
‘We have had the first phase with the state of Taraba, Benue, Kaduna, Zamfara and Plateau. We feel proud to say that the aforementioned states have a team that is concerned about mitigating crisis and the team has averted violence conflict.
‘The second phase is looking at Oyo, Abia, Rivers and Nasarawa states.
‘Religious leaders are people who are respected by the masses. Religious leaders have the power to change the ugly situation we are in because they speak to the masses every day. Instead of discussing at an ethnic level, we discuss at an interfaith level.
‘We have used these five days to discuss and debate. Instead for us to dialogue, we debate.
‘And debate can not give us peace because the parties will be looking at who wins or losses.
‘But in dialogue, we respect our differences but come to a common ground. Whether we like it or not, Nigeria will remain and an interreligious society.
‘There will never be a time where the country would be dominated by Muslims or Christians. We crave the indulgence of the governments of these five states to have binding in the dialogue team. They have the binding and security agencies in their states.’
Meanwhile, KAICIID Project Officer Lantana Abdullahi encouraged religious leaders to work closely with policymakers in order to entrench friendly policies.
‘We also believe strongly that religious leaders to cannot achieve their goals and objectives with collaborating and coordinating with policymakers,’ she said.