A civil society organization, has urged religious leaders in Nigeria to speak against perpetrators of violence based on religion, ethnicity or other factors, human rights.
According to The PUNCH, the CSOs’ which are, Global Peace Foundation Nigeria, ADF International, and Vision Africa, made this known through a communique issued by the Country Director of Global Peace Foundation Nigeria, Rev. John Hayab, at the end of the inclusive security dialogue and the inclusive youth dialogue against electoral violence programmes, which were jointly organised in Abuja.
The two programs brought together religious, political, and civil society leaders from throughout the country, as well as over 300 youth leaders, to discuss and work on issues of common interest and potential solutions to Nigeria’s problems.
The communique reads in part, “With awareness also that uncontrolled violence and the threat of violence lead to fears amongst faith communities, self-silencing of speech and other activities, and possible cycles of violence based on self-help, the dialogue resolved that;
“All forms of violence against persons must be criminalised and culprits prosecuted according to the laws of the land; promote freedom of speech, especially the right to complaint; ensure that all complaints are investigated and appropriate actions taken; and take precautions to stop the escalation of violence in any community.
“We declare and propose that religious leaders should do more to promote peace for their communities and speak out forcefully against those who would instigate violence based on religion, ethnicity, or other factors.
“Security forces should work more closely with local leaders to prevent violence and the threat of violence based on religion, ethnicity, and similar factors, and should more aggressively prosecute those who commit violence or make threats while also doing more to protect the victims of violence and threat.”
Given their community importance, religious leaders, according to the group, must be actively participating in peace talks.
“Religious leaders need to honestly preach peace to their congregations and communities and work to promote mutual respect and understanding within and between faith communities.
“Nigerians should be accepted everywhere in the country the way they are, irrespective of their faith traditions,” it added.
In response to the recent outbreak of political violence in the run-up to the 2023 elections, the communiqué urged stakeholders to safeguard the legitimacy and stability of the country’s democratic form of government.
“INEC must avoid poor coordination of any electoral process since a lack of confidence in an electoral system breeds violence; orient the youth on the dangers of electoral violence to democratic stability; support the active and positive participation of youth in the electoral process; and create awareness about the electoral process and make the collation transparent.
“The politicians need to desist from any inciting statements; call on their supporters to be peaceful and law-abiding; accept defeat in good faith and be magnanimous in victory for the common good of the nation and humanity in general; and put national interest above self and party loyalty”, they said.