By Okeoghene Akubuike
Abuja – Mrs Lilian Okoye, a Peace fellow, Cardinal Onaiyekan Foundation for Peace (COFP) has urged students in the FCT to stay away from hate and reject religious bigotry.
Okoye made the call on Wednesday at a one day inter-faith seminar and workshop organised by the foundation in collaboration with Catholic Women Organisation Abuja Archdiocese (CWOAA) in Abuja.
The workshop had the theme: “Unity in Diversity: Nigerian Youths and Religious Bigotry”.
Okoye, the convener of the workshop, said the purpose of the seminar was to encourage children and youths to stay away from hate and reject bigotry by catching them young.
According to her, a religious bigot is an individual who strongly and unfairly demonstrates hate and intolerance to other religions, beliefs and practices.
She said that bigotry was a lifestyle choice which could lead to crime, saying nothing good came out of crime.
“These young ones must learn to welcome everybody irrespective of their language, religious belief and ethnic/political affiliations for diversity strengthen our community lives and country at large.
“Instead of hatred and revenge choose harmony, tolerance and co-existence that foster nation building and national growth at large,’’ she said.
Okoye advised the students that to be great achievers and needed to practice certain values such as humility, giving, faithfulness, honesty, love and forgiveness.
“Therefore, let us learn to be who we are, that is God’s children; tolerate each other, not minding our religious beliefs; care for and help one another; show love because love conquers everything and every situation.
“Be our brothers’ keeper not minding the language, religion, culture or tribe and have what we call unity in diversity.”
Alhaji Adamu Baba, the Director, Co-Curricular Activities, FCT Secondary Education Board, in his remarks advised the students to love each other irrespective of religious differences, saying the country would be better for it.
Baba, represented by Mr Liman Attahiru, the Principal Executive Officer of Board told the students that the future of the nation was in their hands and the only way they could make a difference was by showing love.
“You do not choose the family you are born into so irrespective of your religion you must show love and tolerate each others’ religious differences.”
Mrs Nkiruka Imaezue, President CWOAA, charged the students to maintain peace at home, at school and in their communities.
Imaezue, who is a Peace Fellow with COFP, said everyone must work together to find lasting peace in the country, adding that the youths had a major role to play.
“At COFP we looked at the Bible and Quaran and we see forgiveness runs through them. So we must work together to find lasting peace in the country.
“God is one, we should respect each others’ religion, you are the ones to make it right, we want you to carry the message of peace to your homes, schools and communities.
“Nobody should force another to practice a religion instead respect each other. What makes Nigeria beautiful is our diversity and we must find unity in that diversity.”
She advised the students to be guided against hate speech, especially in the social media which could lead to conflict as she called on the school administrators to form peace clubs in their schools.
Imaezue said that CWOAA was working closely with the Federation of Muslim Women aimed at promoting peace.
The highlights of the event include paper presentations by Christian and Muslim on the theme; `A Documentary on Violence; Unity Dance’ and drama presentation by the students.
Participants include student from Government Secondary School (GSS) Wuse Zone 3, GSS Garki and GSS Tubdunwada, Zone 4, Abuja.