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UN World Interfaith Harmony Week Commemorated In Nigeria

By Dr Raphael Ogar Oko  and Dr Emmanuel Ivorgba Ande
The Universal Peace Federation – Nigeria and the United Religions Initiative -West Africa jointly organized the Conference of Religious Educators, Leaders and Organizations on Interreligious Peace as part of activities to commemorate the United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week 2017 on February 4 at the National Merit Award House, Maitama, Abuja.

The conference brought together over 120 participants from across the country and representatives of various religious traditions in Nigeria. Beginning with the interfaith invocation, representatives of
Christianity, Islam, Bahai, Krishna movement and Unificationism offered prayers for peace and success of the conference as well as for religious groups in Nigeria to work together to save the nation.

Dr George Ikpot, UPF Director of International Affairs gave the welcoming address while Ambassador Babatunde Adegbesan gave the Chairman’s opening remarks with calls for commitment to interreligious
dialogue and actions. Panel presentations were by representatives of the Krisha movement, Christianity, Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Federation of Muslim Women Association in Nigeria, National Spiritual
Assembly of the Bahais of Nigeria, Africa Clergy Leadership Conference and United Religions Initiative. UPF Nigeria Secretary General, Dr Raphael Ogar Oko gave the keynote address which was focused on
“Architecture for Interreligious Harmony and Cooperation” with an explanation that “we need an interreligious ideology, interreligious citizens and interreligious environment to be able to arrive at the
needed interreligious culture, structure and infrastructure for interreligious peace in Nigeria”.

The presentations were followed by the Interfaith Bridge of Peace ceremony where participants from different religious groups embraced each other and made a pledge never to support or take part of any form of interreligious violence but to work together transcending the borders of religions and denominations. Conference participants affirm that they are “interreligious citizens” whose duty is to increase the number of Nigerians into the realm of interreligious citizenship and also proclaimed Nigeria as an interreligious nation and not a secular nation. The conference participants endorsed the UPF/URI commitment of dedicating 2017 to the promotion of Interreligious Harmony and Cooperation in Nigeria as a response to overcoming the religious challenges facing the Nigeria nation.

Participants called for the establishment of National Assembly Committees on Interreligious Affairs as well as the creation of the Federal Ministry of Interreligious Affairs, the introduction of Interreligious Studies in schools, the establishment of Interreligious Worship center in Abuja and the devotion of 10 percent of annual budget to religious matters in Nigeria. The conference participants representing the different religious groups in Nigeria affirmed that there is One Divine Creator of all people and that all human beings originated from One Creator and are therefore brothers and sisters who should live in peace on earth as a condition to rest in peace in the great beyond.

As a follow up to the conference, the UPF Nigeria and URI West Africa were mandated to coordinate the work on constituting an interfaith study committee on interreligious affairs to work on strategies for
empowerment of religious organizations as well as promotion of interreligious cooperation.

The Study Committee on Interreligious Affairs is a representative group of religious and faith based educators, leaders and organizations as well as institutions and agencies committed to working together to develop and promote policies and programs for interreligious harmony and cooperation in Nigeria. It is open to religious people from the various religious traditions of the world.

The study committee will be working on guidelines that should be adopted in working toward an interreligious ideology that will inspire the development of interreligious code of conduct for all religions, the interreligious curriculum of education and the need for an interreligious constitution for Nigeria. The study committee will be working on a new expression of religious education for all in view of the fact Nigerians have more challenges in the expression of religions than in the intention of religions.
At the closing session of the conference, some distinguished Nigerians from different religious groups were appointed as Interreligious Ambassadors for Peace by the Universal Peace Federation and these
included Hon. Elisha Buba Yero of the URI, Hajiya Gwamma Jaafaru, President of Prisons Officers Wives Association, Alhaji Isyaku Umar (Dan Amanar Daura), Sabo Abubakar Mamman, Mmanti Umoh, Saint Okechukwu Olise and Elizabeth Olise, Ivi Stanley Chukwuemeka, Stephen Ikenna Cyril and Ighiwiyisi Roland Osas. Others appointed were Egwu Alphonsus Toochi, Chidera Ahanonu Samuel, Amos Ayodele Akinmulewo, Dr Aderemi Olusegun, Okeke Fabian Toochukwu, Engr Abba Ibrhaim Makintami and
Samuel E. Okoh

By the success of the conference to commemorate the UN World Interfaith Harmony Week 2017, organizers are hopeful that the follow up work of the Study Committee on Interreligious Affairs and the
Interreligious Ambassadors for Peace, the several religious challenges facing Nigeria shall be addressed in a professional way.  Individuals who are interested in joining the study committee are most welcome and should send their expression of interest to  .

Dr Raphael Ogar Oko, UPF Nigeria and Dr Emmanuel Ivorgba Ande, URI West Africa

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