Onaiyekan: Peace will only be possible if government addresses social injustice

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John Cardinal Onaiyekan, on Tuesday, urged the three tiers of government to re-commit to address social injustice to bring lasting peace in the country.

Onaiyekan made the call while addressing the participants at the 2020 to 2021 Cardinal Onaiyekan Foundation For Peace (COFP) in Abuja.

He also called on religious leaders to make positive efforts to eschew all forms of religious fanaticism that could create fertile grounds for violent extremism to grow and thrive.

According to him, “corruption, bad governance, insurgency, religious fanaticism and killings in different parts of the country remind us of an even more insidious life threatening virus which is neither new nor normal.

“In a world where extreme religious views and ideologies are used to justify violent crimes and insurgency, the roles that religious leaders can play in countering such views, ideologies and foster unity, understanding, mutual respect and cooperation cannot be overestimated.

“This is why I am convinced that building interfaith cooperation and partnership is essential in advancing inclusive society since peace can only be achieved when we understand, respect and accept our differences.

“Above all, I believed that lasting peace is possible when our governments show more commitment in addressing issues of social injustice,’’ he said.

Onaiyekan, also the Founder and President of COFP, said that dialogue and mediation were key to the work of COFP.

He added that it was important to support grassroots leaders and organisations that were deeply committed to improve relations across communities.

He said, “To ensure that religion becomes and remains a positive influence and a force for good in our common search for peace and harmony, it is not enough to condemn violent religious extremism.’’

Onaiyekan said that since there were religious differences in the country, everyone should learn to go beyond such differences to discover and celebrate common grounds of shared values and convictions.

“The pursuit of respect of inalienable fundamental human right should not be left to secular humanists alone to champion.

“Those rights are best protected and promoted when firmly anchored on God by religious leaders, thus COFP fellowship programme seeks to create a community where conversation emanate from faith, justice, equity and love of our fellow human beings.

“This is why we encourage everyone to join us in solidarity to create and maintain such an environment in the country’’.

Also speaking, Muhammad Khalil, Imam of Apo Legislative Quarters Mosque in the FCT, said that if there was no strong religious inter-dialogue and inter-faith mediation, insurgency in the country would not have a lasting solution.

Khlid called on government to always support inter-religious dialogue and mediation as well as involve religious leaders in the fight against insurgency.

Earlier, Rev. Sister Agatha Chikelue, Executive Director, COFP, said that the fellowship programme was established in 2010.

Chikelue said it had become an annual event that brings together about 35 to 50 local sectors, leaders and civil society groups across the country.

She noted that most conflicts in Africa were symptoms of deeper structural problems arising from all manners of exclusionist, religious, ethnic, political and economic issues.

According to her, these conflicts can only be resolved through governance structures that are both ethical and just.

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