Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has called for enhanced cooperation and collaboration by Muslims, Christians and people of other faiths at the grassroots, to deepen the level of religious freedom and promote tolerance, understanding and spirit of neighborliness the state is known for,with attendant positive effect on the State’s peaceful coexistence, religious harmony and socio-economic development.
Speaking through his Honourable Commissioner, Min of Home Affairs, Dr. AbdulLateef Abdulhakeem, Ambode, while swearing in members across the 20 local government areas and 37 local council development areas, to inaugurate Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) at the local levels, noted that, since NIREC was established at the national level, Lagos alone has been proactive, by going ahead to establish the State Chapter of NIREC, and by consciously upgrading and enhancing NIREC’s operations due to the continues rewards from the Council’s activities.
Ambode went on to emphasise that Lagos was occupying prime position among other States in the country, principally because Lagos “does not joke with the issue of spirituality content of development, and in turn the spiritual leaders have not abandon the State,” and with their prayers all his achievements “become possible, beneficial and meaningful.”
He went on to commend NIREC, Lagos State Chapter for ensuring that potential problems were always nip in the bud, as Lagos has never recorded any religious or ethnic conflict. To increase from NIREC initiative therefore, Gov. Ambode said, it has become necessary to take NIREC to the local levels. While reiterating that his administration “is about the people in the grassroots”, the Governor said “Today marks a milestone in the anal of governance in the State as NIREC is introduced to the local government authorities and local council development areas; today is another promised fulfilled.”
His Excellency described NIREC as the collection of religious institutions at the local level, and rendered the functions of NIREC this levels as – compilation of lists of mosques, churches and faith based organizations at each respective LG/LCDA; meeting quarterly; cooperation and collaboration with LG/LCDA officials; liaising with the State NIREC on matters beyond the capacity and capability of the Council at the LG/LCDA levels among others. He enjoined participants to see themselves as the representative of the Government on religious matters at the local level, and thus must show leadership by exhibiting high level of moral and spiritual responsibilities. “You are chosen by God; show Godly attitude.”
In his own contribution, the Honourable commissioner reminded participants that Christians and Muslims shared a lot in common, and if all the people in the communities were made to understand this, that, there would not be any reason for conflict. He said Christians and Muslims “are similar in many respect” as among others they believed in Oneness of God, preach tolerance and understanding, propagate freedom of worship. The Commissioner said he foresaw a future when Christians would be
fighting the cause of Muslims and Muslims would be fighting the cause of Christians, based on high moral values and larger societal interest, rather than pecuniary or other selfish emotional interests.
The Chairman NIREC (Muslim), Sheikh, Dr. Tajudeen Yussuf, remarked that Islam and Christianity must indeed come together more now for the sake of both religions and for the sake of larger society. He said both religions “are losing ground, because of new values that question ideal morality and ethics, and increasing adoption of such. Values and morals as preached by holy Bible and holy Quiran “are being held hostage”
He advised that both faiths must confront emerging values such as amoral and immoral ways, propagation of violence, obscene display of nudity, same sex marriage and other ungodly practices. He said the two religions must recover lost ground and this should be easy because both faiths have a lot in common.
The same view was shared by the Chairman NIREC, Lagos Chapter (Christian counterpart), Apostle (Professor) Alexander Bamgbola, (the Chairman Christian Association Nigeria, Lagos Chapter), who said both Muslims and Christians must work together to pursue peace, as enjoined in their respective holy books; quoting Roman 12:18 of the Bible, Apostle Bambgbola said “If it is possible as much lieth in you, live peacefully with all man.” And Hebrew 12:14 “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”
The Apostle said “…therefore, whenever any conflict snowballs into violent one, or escalates, then the leaders have either failed, or they encouraged their faithful as such.”
The Permanent Secretary in her welcome address said Lagos would always strive for peaceful coexistence and harmonious relationship of all religious and ethnic groups in the State to continue to be the model among all the states, safe for all Nigerians to live in concord and prosper in their respective enterprise.