By Tamami Jeon
On March 16, 2022, the Global Peace Foundation Nigeria (GPFN), held a workshop to strengthen interfaith dialogue among the youth and school children in Lapai LGA of Niger state.
The program had over one hundred and fifty (150) participants in attendance. It sought to educate members of the society, particularly faith leaders, community leaders, youth, and students, on the importance of tolerance, love, and the need to understand one another's differences. The participants came from the major religious groups, traditional rulers, government officials, women, youth, and secondary school students in Niger state.
GPF Nigeria Country Director Rev. John Joseph Hayab, represented by Ahmadu Shettima the Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, welcomed participants during the meeting. In attendance were the representatives of the major religions, the Emir of Lapai as represented by Alh Shehu Muhammad Kobo, the district head of Lapai, the Eze Ndi Igbo of Lapai LGA, Igwe C.E.A Okwagba, and various stakeholders.
In his remarks, Rev. Hayab called for continued peaceful coexistence and unity among the people of Lapai LGA. He further urged them to continue working together towards combating violence and crime in the local government and state as a whole. Rev. Hayab explained the need for 'interfaith dialogue' to help people appreciate and understand others from other faiths and cultures. He stated:
"Interfaith dialogue helps us to listen to each other and find common ground in respecting differences as well as doing things such as community projects together. If we don't meet, we can't communicate, and if we don't communicate, we won't know or understand ourselves. If we don't know or understand ourselves, our relationships – if they exist at all – little misunderstandings will be capable of provoking or perpetuating conflict."
He also explained that the dialogue forum aimed to promote shared values across faith traditions through GPF's "One Family under God" Campaign as the basis for building sustainable peace. Rev. Hayab concluded, "All religions teach good things in life such as non-violence, truth, honesty, compassion, and harmony. It is only misinterpretation through ignorance that causes problems, which dialogues can help improve."
In his remarks, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Coordinator Lapai LGA, Rev. Adewuyi Davies, mentioned that no society could exist and develop in isolation. Therefore, Christians need Muslims and vice versa. He added that trust had been destroyed in the communities and the result is the current religious intolerance. He concluded by saying that having shared experiences will result in trust, which will, in turn, give birth to religious tolerance.
Imam Idris Nma Muhammad of the Niger State Interfaith Committee, explained that 'interfaith' does not mean people should stop practicing their religions but rather understand the similarities and differences between the different religions and tolerate each other.
Students of Marafa Arabic and Islamic Secondary School and their counterparts from St. Mary National High School Lapai who attended the event showed much interest in the program. They promised to extend the One Family Under God Campaign in their various schools. Stakeholders agreed to make the meeting a regular one.