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Faith Communities to Prioritize “lifting hope of our people”: Religious Leaders in Nigeria

Logo Cardinal Onaiyekan Foundation for Peace (COFP).

Religious leaders in Nigeria have, at the virtual Faith Leaders’ Dialogue Forum organized by Cardinal Onaiyekan Foundation for Peace (COFP) in partnership with Faith for Peace Initiative (FPI), underscored the need for “Faith and Inter-faith communities” to collaborate and give hope to citizens of the West African nation amid COVID-19 challenges.

The religious leaders “appealed to both the Faith and Inter-Faith Communities to do more in lifting the hope of our people by harnessing the power of faith for the common good and, as a result, step up their complementary role in economic development and poverty alleviation as we all grapple with the effects of COVID-19,” Nigeria’s Vanguard News reported, Friday, July 17.

“In playing this role,” the Religious leaders said, “Faith Communities should lay emphasis on Joint Community Action by the leaders of both faiths at all levels; this way, the Faith Communities would work together, complement each other and share resources and experiences as we all face this common challenge to our humanity.”

They also encouraged “Faith Communities to collaborate on charitable initiatives while efforts should be made towards deploying Zakat, tithe and charitable donations to attend to the needs of vulnerable citizens and embark on strong advocacy on financial literacy among their members in order to facilitate the utilization of non-interest social and commercial finance instruments for short-term, medium-term and long-term interventions.”

During the forum, the religious leaders also called on members of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), to “rally religious leaders to take their social roles more seriously and facilitate the establishment of an Inter-Faith COVID-19 Council that would coordinate the responses of the Faith and Inter-Faith Communities to the COVID-19 crisis in Nigeria.”

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Further, the leaders hailed the members of NIREC “for supporting the government’s efforts towards stemming the health and socio-economic effects of the pandemic on vulnerable Nigerians” adding that they should “intensify efforts to promote religious tolerance and harmony in order to create an atmosphere of peace and tranquility which is necessary to attract foreign investments and allow for free movement of goods and services across the country.”

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, has recorded at least 34,854 cases of the novel coronavirus including 769 deaths and 14,292 recoveries. 

The leaders said that the global pandemic has “revealed the crisis of governance bedeviling the nation as it has shown the gross inadequacies in our governance system with massive deficits in health, education and other sectors,” Vanguard News Nigeria reported.

As a way forward, they called on the Government to “seize this opportunity to review the governance system so as to make it more effective and efficient as well as to prepare the nation for any future challenge of the scale of COVID-19 crisis.”

They further appealed to the private sector “to develop services and products that could catalyze national productivity and socially-inclusive economic recovery.”

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Participants at the virtual forum recognized the “critical role” that religious leaders in Nigeria have “in combating the social and economic challenges of COVID-19” even though the pandemic “does not respect faith, gender, race, age, social status and other demographic religious,” according to Vanguard News Nigeria.