By Ngozi Nwoke
A human rights group, Justice Makers Initiative (JMI), has called on media practitioners, religious leaders and the youths to shun hate publications and speeches.
The group made the calls during its sensitization forum on the implications of hate publications, speeches which was organised to ensure peace and decorum in the country.
The President, Mr Patrick Dunkwu, explained the aim of the forum, saying it was for media practitioners, religious leaders and the youths to assist in ending hate publications and speeches in Nigeria.
He stated: “In furtherance with the federal government’s directives to curb hate publications/speeches that threaten the peace and unity in Nigeria, Justice Makers Initiative, a non-governmental organisation, with the support of KAICCID Dialogue Centre, organized a sensitization forum for media practitioners, religious leaders and youths in Ikorodu, Lagos state.
“The rationale behind the forum is to sensitise media practitioners, religious leaders and the youths on best practices to end hate publications/speeches, and build the capacity of stakeholders to work together and stop hate publications/speech, a twin evil presently undermining ethnic and religious cohesion and peace in the country”.
The forum which was attended by religious leaders and media practitioners from the media, faith and civil society groups, exchanged views and thoughts on the best strategies to end hate publications, as well as proffered sustainable ways on how media organisations, faith and civil society groups can work together to eradicate hate publications/speeches in Nigeria.
The forum assessed and evaluated cases of hate publications/speeches in Nigeria, also identified improvements and positive efforts made by the media and religious groups in reducing the increasing rate of hate publications/speeches.
Participants at the forum also reviewed practices around the world that proved useful in addressing hate materials, adding that media organisations and religious groups should embrace peace and promote unity as they carry out their practices.
In his presentation at the forum, Alhaji Luqman Abdul Rasaq, Chief Imam, The Missioner of Ansar-Udden, Society of Nigeria, Igbogbo in Ikorodu, Lagos, noted, “If humans allow love to reign in their relationship with another, there will be no basis to compare one religion with the other, because we are all from one God who created us as human beings and not as Christians, Muslims or Traditionalists”.
Rasaq further stated that followers of the different religious groups, rely so much on what their leaders preach and are easily influenced and led astray by their teachings. In this regard, he tasked religious leaders to always teach their followers to promote love and tolerance to people of different faith and belief, refrain from utterances that instigate hatred and violence.
“We want to use this medium to task all religious leaders to give teachings that promote love, peace and tolerance. There is no need to fight or talk down on people with different religious beliefs or faith. We were created as humans before religion, therefore we must refrain from utterances which tend to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, to avoid inciting violence and hatred in Nigeria.”
Rev. Akin Abiodun, Adviser, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Ikorodu, emphasized that Christian religion preaches love and tolerance which were exemplified by Jesus Christ as he met the need of everyone, both Christians and non-Christians, noting that love should be the practice of all religion, “Love and tolerance should be the practice of all religions. In christianity, Jesus Christ always preached about love.
“There was nothing he did not do in love. To clampdown on hate publications/speeches, we must learn to respect other people’s religious beliefs. We must refrain from utterances that can cause fights and violent actions. Religious leaders are mostly influential to their members, therefore we call on all religious leaders to teach love and tolerance in their various denominations. Religious leaders also have a role to play in stopping the use of hate publications/speeches in Nigeria.”
The group’s executive director, Mrs Jennifer Dunkwu, disclosed that the forum is a follow up to an earlier forum organized this year to continue with the sensitization exercise on the dangers of hate publications/speeches in the media and religious groups. She added that with the proliferation of media and religious institutions, there is need for a continuous sensitization and capacity development of media and religious groups to join in the fight against hate publications/speeches.
“In order to enhance the capacity to tackle issues of hate publications/speeches, which have continued to threaten national unity and peace among different religious and ethnic groups in Nigeria, we decided to continue the second phase of the discussion on hate publications/speeches which began early this year. It was a necessity to organize this forum due to the fact that majority of cases relating to inter-faith violence in Nigeria, had their roots in hate publications/speeches by the media religious groups and ethnic cultures.