JOS, NIGERIA -
The President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama has advocated the utilization of religious values to solve the problems of illiteracy, corruption, immorality, disease and unemployment in the country, noting that its reduction to mere external rituals or class identity could facilitate disharmony, discontent and violence.
Archbishop Kaigama, who is also the chief shepherd of Jos Archdiocese, made this assertion in his remarks during the public presentation of his book on the Religious crises in Plateau State, titled PEACE, NOT WAR, at the Crest Hotel, Jos, on Thursday, April 19, 2012.
The Archbishop who has been a central figure in the efforts to put an end to religious crises in Plateau State, for more than ten years, noted that: “Help can come from Religion; but if we reduce religion to mere external rituals or class identity rather than applying its values to solve problems of illiteracy, corruption, immorality, disease, unemployment, etc, it becomes in the hands of some unscrupulous politicians, ethnic chauvinists and religious bigots a dangerous weapon of destruction.
According to him, the multidimensional factors that generate crises in the country have most times been neglected while so much is blamed on religion. He added: “Also, the remedy to crises does not lie in the use of bows and arrows, bombs and guns, but in mature dialogue which to me is an imperative for eliminating or mitigating violence which occurs under whatever name.”
The Archbishop of Jos who noted that social tension is a normal part of human experience however warned that “if it is unhealthy, it degenerates into anti-social and inhuman behaviours.
Speaking on the title of the 200 page book, which contained most of his interventions at conflict resolution meetings and presentations, Archbishop Kaigama, who has been a champion of dialogue as solution to all crises, noted that peace is better and cheaper than war and the only option for both human and social development.
He continued: “War inflicts pain and hardships, disorientates communities and sows distrust, hatred and hostility that can linger from generation to generation, whereas peace promotes personal wellbeing, communal harmony and progress.”
Archbishop Kaigama regretted that in Nigeria, “religion has become the greatest sentimental factor one can employ to claim victimization or seek personal or communal gains,” adding that: “Many of our youths tend to find in religion the bad excuse for acts of violence.”
The local ordinary of Jos while calling on the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to come to the rescue of the youths of the country, advocated a serious, functional Ministry of Youth with greater responsibility for youth welfare and development. He also called on families, schools and worship places “to help children and young people with the correct understanding of religion and its correct application rather than negatively indoctrinating them with prejudices and hate messages.”
Archbishop Kaigama stated that the Archdiocese of Jos in its efforts to foster interreligious harmony in the state has established an Interfaith Vocational Centre in Bokkos, “where both Muslim and Christian youths learn vocational skills for two years while at the same time learning about and appreciating each other’s religion and how to live together in mutual respect.”
The Archbishop disclosed that in further commitment to prevent religious conflict and enhance peace building, the Archdiocese has commenced the building of a “Dialogue, Reconciliation and Peace Centre” in Gold and Base, Jos. This will provide a good venue and atmosphere for proactive programmes on peace and reconciliation for the settling and prevention of future violence, he added.
The ceremony was attended by Governor David Jang of Plateau State, representatives of governors of neighbouring states, Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja and some other members of the Catholic Bishops Conference, Emir of Wase and other Muslim leaders in the state, Church dignitaries and other personalities from all walks of life, priests, religious and lay faithful. Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto reviewed the book.