In order to reduce religious tensions leading up to the general elections in Nigeria in 2023, the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) have signed a peace agreement.
The peace agreement was signed in Washington, D.C., during the Worldwide Religious Freedom Summit 2022, which was hosted by the Global Peace Foundation and 70 international organizations dedicated to promoting human rights and religious freedom.
It is meant to ensure a peaceful and secure environment among Nigerians for the purpose of having a friendly atmosphere before, during, and after the 2023 general elections for the citizens to freely exercise their franchises.
Prof. Yusuf Usman, was represented the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, the President-General of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), and CAN was represented by Rev. Samson Ayokunle, its immediate past President at the meeting geared towards ensuring the success of signing the peace pact by the two.
Ayokunle said in a statement that the leadership of the Muslim and Christian organisations pledged to continue to work together, avoid violence, embrace dialogue and remain committed to building resilient communities that are free from fear.
He added that the two religious bodies promised to embrace a vision of common humanity and speak publicly of hope for Nigeria’s peaceful and bright future.
The statement reads in parts: “This is a difficult time in Nigeria, with ever-escalating security crises and an overwhelming loss of trust in government. And unfortunately, so much of the crisis in Nigeria has had a religious context.
“I recall the horrifying death of Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu murdered by a mob because of allegations of blasphemy.
“Likewise, the shocking attack on the St Francis Xavier Catholic Church on Pentecost Sunday that left so many dead. Nearly every day there seems to be another priest kidnapped or killed.
“At the same time, I know that there are so many across Nigeria, Muslims and Christians alike, who abhor this violence and only want to live in peace with their brethren of other faiths as we have done for so long.
“The Sultan of Sokoto is one of those men, and I thank him for how he swiftly condemned these kinds of attacks.
“We will only build a stronger Nigeria that is able to tackle these urgent ones that are destroying our country from lack of security, accountability, and corruption, to conflicts between different peoples and faiths, to hunger and the economic situation, if we religious leaders determine together to truly lead our people.”
Ayokunle believes the signing of the Declaration for a Peaceful and Secure Nigeria on the world stage was significant.
He said: “The Declaration we signed lays out a number of principles that we believe all Nigerians can readily affirm.
“It states that all people are endowed by the creator with inherent value and fundamental rights, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, culture, region or the many other differences that often divide us, and that the essential freedom and dignity of every person must be respected and protected.
“The Declaration also calls for collaboration amongst the various traditions and faith communities resent in Nigeria in order to advance the well-being of all and to resolve conflicts peacefully also makes clear that we vocally reject and condemn all use of violence and coercion to speed of her political or religious views and identities, or to demean ethnic, regional, or tribal affiliation.”
Ayokunle added that they also pledged to demand that free and fair democratic elections should be conducted in peace and for the benefit of all Nigerians regardless of ethnicity, religion or geographical zone.
“Especially with the upcoming elections, we note with grave concern that politicians and government representatives, and sometimes religious representatives as well, have not taken seriously their full duty to promote peace and harmony amongst the people of Nigeria, which has contributed to numerous crises for our nation,” he added.