Ahead of the 2023 General elections, Mohammed Sa’ad Abubakar III, the Sultan of Sokoto, and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) have signed a peace agreement to defuse religious tensions and provide a safe and secure environment throughout the country.
The peace agreement was signed in Washington, D.C., at the International Religious Freedom Summit 2022, organised by the Global Peace Foundation and 70 international organisations for human rights and religious freedom.
Prof. Yusuf Usman represented the Sultan, who also serves as President-General of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), while Rev. Samson Ayokunle represented the supreme Christian organisation.
Ayokunle said in a statement released yesterday in Abuja that the leadership of the Muslim and Christian organisations under the umbrella organisation committed to continuing their cooperative efforts, refraining from violence, embracing dialogue, and maintaining their commitment to creating resilient, fear-free communities.
He said, “The two religious organisations also vowed to embrace a vision of a common humanity and express openly hope for a peaceful and prosperous future for Nigeria.”The statement read: “This is a difficult time in Nigeria, with ever-escalating security crises and an overwhelming loss of trust in government. And unfortunately, so much of the crisis in Nigeria has had a religious context.
“I recall the horrifying death of Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu, murdered by a mob because of blasphemy allegations. Likewise, the shocking attack on the St Francis Xavier Catholic Church on Sunday Pentecost left many dead. And nearly every day, there seems to be another priest kidnapped or killed.
“At the same time, I know that there are so many across Nigeria, Muslims and Christians alike, who abhor this violence and only want to live in peace with their brethren of other faiths as we have done for so long.
“The Sultan of Sokoto is one of those men, and I thank him for how he swiftly condemned these kinds of attacks.
“We will only build a stronger Nigeria that can tackle these urgent ones that are destroying our country from lack of security, accountability, and corruption, to conflicts between different peoples and faiths, to hunger and the economic situation, if we religious leaders determine together to lead our people truly.”
Ayokunle argued that this was why it was crucial for the Sultan and CAN to publicly sign the declaration to support a secure and peaceful Nigeria.
He said: “The declaration we signed lays out a number of principles that we believe all Nigerians can readily affirm.
“It states that all people are endowed by the Creator with inherent value and fundamental rights, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, culture, region or the many other differences that often divide us, and that the essential freedom and dignity of every person must be respected and protected.
“The declaration also calls for collaboration amongst the various traditions and faith communities in Nigeria to advance the well-being of all and to resolve conflicts peacefully. It also makes clear that we vocally reject and condemn all use of violence and coercion to speed off her political or religious views and identities, or to demean ethnic, regional, or tribal affiliation.”
They also promised to demand that free and fair elections be held peacefully and for the benefit of all Nigerians, regardless of their race, religion, or geographic region, Ayokunle continued.
He said: “Especially with the upcoming elections, we note with grave concern that politicians and government representatives, and sometimes religious representatives as well, have not taken their full duty seriously to promote peace and harmony among the people of Nigeria, which has contributed to numerous crises for our nation,” he added.
In the statement, some of the crises were listed as worries over political representation and the viability of really democratic rule; issues with judicial impartiality and integrity; and problems with political prejudice, corruption, and inaction.
Others include a grievous lack of security owing to terrorism, militancy, cycles of retaliation, kidnappings for ransom, sexual violence, and organised criminal activities; mass hunger and starvation; poor agricultural policies and a lack of education for sustainable livestock raising; mass displacement of peoples and inadequate security for them and a hostile business environment and lack of jobs and education, among others.
“Certainly, individuals will have different opinions on the causes of and solutions to all of these problems.
“But far more importantly, we must share a fundamental commitment to Nigeria’s unity and work collaboratively toward solutions through peaceful and respectful means, affirming the dignity of one another and our brothers and sisters in Nigeria.
“We call upon all religious and political leaders, and all people of faith, to develop and promote solutions grounded in the shared values of our common humanity and which protect and uplift the worth, dignity and fundamental rights endowed by God to every person.
“We, finally, affirm that religious leaders play a special role in leading their communities and have a duty to shepherd their communities in a way that promotes peace,” the statement added.