Religious leaders in Oyo state have intensified efforts to raise more awareness on the need for peaceful coexistence, calling on residents to dutifully embrace peace and religious tolerance as critical factors to achieve sustainable peace.
This formed the central subject of discuss on Thursday, November 30 at the Oyo International Peace Day held at the House of Chiefs, Agodi Secretariat, Ibadan.
This was as African traditional worshipers at the event commended Makinde for putting an end to the era of their members being relegated to the background by previous administrations saying the governor’s efforts described as unprecedented have started yielding the desired results through a depended interfaith harmony in Oyo state.
The event, according to Governor Seyi Makinde, represented by his Executive Assistant on Administration, Reverend Idowu Ogedengbe, was to deepen Interfaith harmony among the people of Oyo state.
Notable religious leaders such as the Grand Mufti and Mufasir of Ibadanland, Dr Abdulbari Adetunji, Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Apostle Joshua Akinyemiju, and other speakers at the event stated that there is no alternative to peace and tranquility in any society if the state must continue on its path of development being recorded under the present administration of Governor Seyi Makinde.
Dr Adetunji maintained that Islam is a religion of peace and anybody who details from the path of peace is not a good Muslim. “We must work very hard and struggle well to maintain peace and not involve ourselves in anything that is capable of tarnishing our image as good Muslims.” He said.
Speaking at the one day event with the theme: “Action Of Peace: Our Ambition for Global Goal and Sustainability of Unity In Our Diversity”, the religious leaders unanimously agreed in their separate submissions during their addresses that no meaningful development can be achieved in an atmosphere of instability and civil unrest occasioned by intolerance of any form.
While speaking, the keynote speaker and Spiritual Head of Shafaudeen In Islam, Prof. Sabit Olagoke, maintained that by being more respectful and understanding of each other’s religious beliefs, people can build a more harmonious and peaceful society.
He noted that while people may have different religious beliefs, they can still live in peace and work together for the common good of the society, calling on citizens to respect each other’s right to freedom of worship, and to promote understanding and tolerance among different faiths as applicable in the state.
Olagoke equally urged people to use their faiths to promote peace, justice, and equality, noting that religious leaders and groups can play a vital role in reducing conflict, promoting social cohesion, and providing support to those in need.
His words: “Religion needs to be understood as a board of unity among human kind. Religions are just schools, the common market is where we meet to socialise, meaning that we need to consider the intention of God for creating religions and for warming us not to use it as a weapon of oppression or discrimination; we must look at it as something that will unit all of us.”
“What matters to God is an issue of peace, peace as to start with tranquility of the mind, when you, yourself understand the religion and then reward.”
“Immediate reward is the tranquilityof the mind. When you are at peace with yourself, you will be able to interact with others to create peace for the environment and that is why religion is needed to process every hindrance, reliable, dependable element that is full of the capacity to deliver services.
“Religious leaders are supposed to teach the scriptures. So, we must not hide under religion to cause problem in the state.”
Similarly, the Chairman of Agidigbo FM in Ibadan, Dr Oriyomi Hamzat, who was Honoured by the state government with an Ambassador of Peace Award for his unrelenting advocacy for peace, human rights and social justice in the society, told journalists that faith leaders must work together to ensure that religious institutions are places of peace and tolerance, where people could freely come together to share bonds that engender building an egalitarian society.
He stressed the importance of teaching young people about the value of respect, kindness, and compassion, so that the next generation could grow up in a world where everyone is treated equally and with dignity.
His words: If you would like, believe in God, if not, do not, but in whatever you do, do not engage in anything that threatens peace in your community and environment because it is sacrosanct and must be present for any society to grow.”
While fielding questions from journalists shortly after the event, Chief Awoniyi Omorodoye Amosun, the Otun Awise of Ibadanland, who spoke on behalf of African traditional worshipers, commended Makinde for being true to his words during his 2023 campaign tour to ensure that there’s right to freedom of worship in Oyo state as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution.
While heaping praises on the governor’s aide for such initiative to bring all faiths together under one roof, Chief Amosun stated that the entire African traditional worshipers in Oyo state are delighted to welcome such event in the state assuring that the event is a core recipe for deepening interfaith harmony and peaceful coexistence in the state.
In his address, the convener, Rev Femi Ibikunle, the Special Assistant to the Governor on Interfaith Affairs, said: “We gathered here to preach peace and unity in our dear state regardless of your religious affiliation and we thank God for our governor who has created a template for the three religions to come together in harmony. We need to build on what His Excellency has given us to foster tolerance, love, and compassion for one another.
“Tolerance and love are essential to creating a peaceful and harmonious society. When we learn to respect and accept people from different backgrounds, cultures, and faiths, we can break down barriers and build a more inclusive world where all men live without fear of discrimination or segregation.”
“Love is the greatest force in the world, and it has the power to unite us and help us overcome any differences. Let us all work together to foster tolerance and love, and to create a world where everyone can live in peace and harmony.”
Speaking on behalf of the governor, the Executive Assistant to the Governor on Administration, Rev. Idowu Ogedengbe, reiterated Governor Seyi Makinde’s resolve to continue encouraging championing the course of religious harmony in the state via different platforms and avenues.
He acknowledged that people of different faiths have lived side by side in the state for generations while stressing the importance of maintaining the peaceful coexistence that has always been the hallmark of the pacesetter state.
Rev. Ogedengbe equally announced resolve of the governor to continue to invest in projects that would bring people of different faiths and ethnicities together, such as the construction of places of worship and the promotion of interfaith dialogue, among others.
Highlights of the event was presentation of ambassador of peace award to other deserving personalities who have distinguished themselves as humanitarians and advocates of peace.