From Femi Oyelola Kaduna
Chairman, Kaduna State Peace Commission, Bishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon has said that, for Nigeria to get it right in religious tolerance, the country must go back to the era of Premier of Northern Nigeria and Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello.
Bishop Fearon noted that both Christian and Muslim communities leaders at that time worked tirelessly for the progress of the country without allowing their religious differences to set them against each other at the detriment of the nation.
In his remark at a lecture in Kaduna with the theme, “Christian and Muslim Learning Together the Challenge and Opportunity for Religious Leadership Today”, the Bishop specifically extolled leadership quality of the then President-General of Nigeria, Nnamdi Azikiwe and other regional leaders.
He recalled how Sir Ahmadu Bello advised Azikiwe that it was better for them as leaders to understand their political and religious differences than to forget it, as a panacea for peaceful co-existence among the people.
“I remember vividly how Sardauna and Azikiwe discussed Muslim population in the North and Christian population in the East, and the need to use such populations for the development of the country.
“Perhaps, out of enthusiasm Azikiwe told Sardauna, let us forget our differences and forge ahead, but Sardauna said no, we should not forget our differences, but we should rather understand our differences to move on as one united country.
“So for Nigeria to get it right today, we must go back to the era of Sardauna/Azikiwe, where there was great deal of religious tolerance”.
Bishop Fearon also cautioned crop of present day Nigerian politicians not to use religion and ethnicity to divide the people in a bid to win election.
He said Nigerians do not need Christian and Muslim President and governors in 2019, but a President who is Christian or Muslim and a governor who is Christian or Muslim.
He advised the electorate not to vote along religious lines, saying no political party belongs to Christians or Muslims.
“I don’t want to talk about political parties here, but I disagree with those who left one party for another, what do they want, is it job they were looking for in one party that they cannot get and move to another party?.
“They should learn to work for the country than working for themselves.
“We don’t need Christian President, we don’t need Muslim President, but we need a President who is a Christian, we need a President who is Muslim, we need a President who has the fear of God and work for the betterment of the country,” Bishop Fearon said.
Delivering a lecture on the occasion, a visiting Professor and President of Hartford Seminary and Professor of Social Ethics, Professor Heidi Hadsel, who has deep commitment to interfaith dialogue and engagement, believes that in today’s religiously plural world, it is essential to understand and work with religions beyond one’s own.
“I want to say that the way you solve religious problem in Ibadan, for instance, will be different from the way you solve that of kaduna because of different factors involved. However, dialogue is always the way out”. Hadsel said.
The event was organised by Kaduna Center for the study of Christian/Muslim relation which Bishop Fearon is one of the founders.
Bishop Fearon is on a visit to Nigeria as United Kingdom based Secretary General of the Anglican Church Communion.