22nd August, 2011
Recently, Muslim and Christian faithful came together under one roof at a public enlightenment inter-faith seminar, with the desire to foster understanding, stimulate communication, work on specific problems of mutual concerns, explore similarities and differences as well as facilitate means of cooperation and friendship among the adherents of both religions.
Tagged Love Thy Neighbour, the programme, put together by Love A Muslim Ministry in conjunction with Risalatul-Haq Dawah International, was held at Time Square Event Centre, Ajao Road, Ikeja, Lagos, Southwest Nigeria.
Speaking on the topic Christian-Muslim Dialogue In Sustaining Nigeriaâ€™s Democracy, the Muslim speaker, Ustaz Jamiu Adegunwa, said there is no other way for Nigeria to actually avoid religious crisis except by encouraging Muslim-Christian dialogue.
According to him,â€the reason is this, people do not understand one another due to the fact that every sect claims self righteousness in their respective religions and this will not give room for reasoning.
â€œFor Nigeria not to encourage religious dialogue is like sitting on a keg of gunpowder and if it will finally explode and affect everyone.
“For instance, if religious dialogue is encouraged in the North, Muslims will understand some technical point about Christianity and they too will do same about Islam.
â€œThe religious beliefs of Christianity and Islam are clearly stated in the Bible and Koran respectively and there are similarities as well as differences between them.
“There is absolutely no need for people to get angry, fight or coarse anyone into any religious belief.â€
Quoting from the Holy Koran, chapter 2, verse 256, he said, â€there is no compulsion in religion. Likewise, Jesus said in the book of John, chapter 6 verse 44:65, that no one can come unto me except my father draws him,â€ adding that there are also many other verses in both books that promote dialogue.
â€œTherefore, what do we gain by killing one another over religious differences? Muslim and Christian doctrines cannot be changed now, the only thing that can be done is for us to develop our knowledge by learning more and having peaceful and intellectual discussions on matters of comparative religion,â€ he noted.
The cleric appealed to the Nigeria Inter Religious Council (NIREC), federal, state and local governments to support the course for the benefit of the countryâ€™s nascent democracy.
According to the Christian speaker, Evangelist Isang Udo-Akagha, â€it saddens our heart to recall the many sad incidents of religious violence in this country and we believe that one sure way of promoting the continuance of these senseless killings and wanton destruction of properties, is to sit back, do nothing and blame the government.
â€œWe therefore felt compelled to sensitise the public, encourage other religious organisations and advise government to support Christian/Muslim dialogue as a means to eradicate religious violence in the country.
â€œDialogue is the wisest way to handle our doctrinal differences and the most foolish way is to stay silent and pretend as if it does not exist. Together, Christians and Muslims comprise over 90 per cent of the countryâ€™s population. So, the way in which they relate is bound to have profound consequence for their communities and the nation at large.â€
He added that both can live together in peace and harmony in spite of their religious differences, if political leaders, religion leaders, the youths and the general public are made to understand that dialogues/debates can be used as a tool to build a culture of inter-faith friendship, religion tolerance and peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims.
â€œIn order to broaden its impact, Christian/Muslim dialogue needs to widen its participation and reflect the diversity of opinions in each community. Moreover, the inclusion of the youths, religion leaders, various professional groups and non-government organisations into such dialogue should be encouraged.
â€œFor example, the recently released guidelines on none interest Islamic banking by the Central Bank of Nigeria has generated so much controversy and we are yet to witness an elaborately organised public debate on the issue. I seriously think the need for such debate at this time cannot be overemphasised.
â€œI therefore call upon the strongest opposing voice on this issue to put forward a financial expert and invite the Central Bank governor to a public debate to be broadcast live across the nation.
“Such an event will go a long way to bring enlightenment to Nigerians and silence the voice of those calling for violence over the Islamic bank issue,â€ he noted.