Sultan of Sokoto and President General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Alhaji Muhammad Sa‘ad Abubakar and the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onayekan, on Thursday led other religious leaders to a conference aimed at finding lasting solution to the religious crisis in the country, particularly in the North.
According to Onayekan, “We are meeting due to the international conference that is slated for next year. That is in view of the next election and for greater understanding between us. All of us had heard the news that the US government has designated Boko Haram as a terrorist organisation. I am not sure I understand what this means, especially the implications for our country Nigeria and our national sovereignty. I hope that the authorities are taking note and their eyes are wide open”.
He added: “All I can say is that Nigeria has already declared Boko Haram unwanted in our society, both Christians and Muslims and our nation has officially done so in which case Obama and his boys are not saying anything new. All that is needed for us is to continue to work and for all hands to be on deck, security agencies as well as the rest of us.
“The reality on ground is that we have plurality of religion in Nigeria, whether one says they are two or three. Even we have in the two or three diversities. This diversity can become problems if we allow it to get out of hand or allow those having a different agenda to exploit the situation. These diversities can also be seen as great assets. Our common grounds are the truths that we believe, the values that we share and the common challenges and problems that face all of us”.
In his remarks, the Sultan explained that the meeting was basically for the northern religious leaders and some southern religious leaders and was not unconnected to the 2007 memo written to the Pope by 185 Muslim leaders worldwide on how Muslims and Christians can relate better through mutual respect and understanding.
“I and Cardinal Onaiyekan have realised that the religious problems across the country are mostly from the North, hence this meeting. We have met three times before today’s (yesterday) and next year we are planning to hold an international conference where everyone including politicians will be invited. This meeting will not undermine the NIREC (Nigerian Inter Religious Council) initiative and the outcome of this conference will also be reflected in the December 16 meeting of the council,” he said.
Two papers, “The Imperative of Interfaith Understanding and Cooperation for Responsible Politics” by Prof. Adamu Baikie and “The Imperative of Interfaith Understanding and Cooperation for Responsible Leadership” by Prof. Muhammed Tabiu, were presented and discussed at the conference which drew political and religious leaders from across the country, especially the North.