Religious leaders in Christianity and Islam, on Tuesday, raised fears that the continued attacks on sacred places of worship in Nigeria may set the tone for destruction.
Those who made the submission were the immediate past-President of the Christian Council of Nigeria, Most Rev. Benebo Fubara-Manuel and former Chief Imam of the National Assembly Legislative Quarters Mosque, Sheikh Muhammad Nuru Khalid.
Figures collated from media reports of targeted attacks on churches and mosques in 2022 in Nigeria indicated that 139 clerics were killed while at least 394 Christians and Muslims were kidnapped.
Fubara-Manuel and Khalid expressed their minds during a one-day high-level engagement with youth religious leaders initiated by a KAICIID Fellow, Rev. Dr Uzoaku Williams, with support from the International Dialogue Centre, KAICIID, in Abuja, with the theme, “The protection of Holy Sites and sacred places: The role of young Leaders.”
Uzoaku Williams explained that the aim of the high-level engagement was to sensitize and build the capacity of young religious leaders on their roles in protecting the holy sites, sacred sites, in the country, saying that is a major focus of the programme.
While describing the attacks as unfortunate, the clerics said that they threatened the freedom of religion, which is the bedrock of moral development.
Fubara-Manuel regretted that youths were often those used in the desecration of holy sites.
“They are sometimes picked as political thugs or as misguided and misinformed youths about the history of their faiths or their communities and made to engage in war or in some destructive activities,” he said.
Sheikh Khalid said the attacks on the worship centres in the country were the handiwork of the enemies of the country, stressing that worship centres are a place of refuge and must be protected by stakeholders.
He said, “Accordingly, there are always two sets of human folks, the evildoers who promote distraction and reject the idea of togetherness in pursuing the common good, and the righteous men who are passionate about development, shared values and protection of rights, lives and property. The former must be checked and prevented by the latter.
“Our youth have the greatest and most effective role to play, considering the importance of their needs in securing a brighter future and changing the negative narrative of intolerance, religious conflict, mistrust and distraction of life and property, especially sacred places.”