The Embassy of Israel in Nigeria has commenced the process of promoting peaceful coexistence among the followers of Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
To this end, the Embassy held an inter-faith symposium Thursday, titled: Peace, Tolerance and Co- existence among different religions.
According to the Embassy, the aim is for people of faith to reflect in the Holy scriptures of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
The event which saw several religious leaders in attendance, among which were the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Most Reverend Ignatius Kaigama; Chief Rabbi Chabad in Nigeria, Rabbi Israel Uzan; Chief Imam of Abuja National Mosque; Dr. Muhammad Kabir Adam; executive secretary of Christian United for Israel, Rev Samson Ozovehe and president of God of Israel Believer’s Fellowship, Evangelist Obasanjo Gabriel.
Both spoke on addressing the issue of extremism as one of the root causes of crisis in Nigeria.
In his address, the organiser of the symposium, the acting Ambassador of the Embassy of l Israel in Nigeria, Mr Yotam Kreiman, said it was borne out of the need to advance peaceful co-existence among different religions, in line with the three Holy Scriptures of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Most Rev Ignatius Kaigama, in his remarks, said religion is a force for peace.
Kaigama stressed that extremism is not religion adding that it has to be condemned if there most be peace.
“Peace is so fundamental to my religion as it binds us to God and mankind,” Kaigama said adding that the two most important commandments as seen in Matthew chapter 12 are: “the love for God above all things,” and “the love of neighbour as yourself”, adding that anyone who is able to observe them as a Christian, has fulfilled all the other commandments.
“We should transient our narrow religious world views and embrace one another so that peace can be entrenched, and peace will flow like a river, throughout the world.
“We need to go beyond tolerance, we should love completely. Tolerance has a negative connotation when it comes to peaceful co-existence.”
“We should be able to love and embrace one another without discrimination and without any prejudice,” Kaigama added.
The Chief Rabbi of Abuja, Rabbi Israel Uzan, on his part, said tolerance does not help peaceful co-existence adding that in most occasions, respect for one another’s view of religion does.
“What makes the world beautiful is the variety of views in terms of the different religions existing in the world. My religion, Judaism, teaches the followers to live peacefully with everyone alike,” Uzan said adding, “we do not have to agree on the different way we worship God, but we can just respect one another. We are not supposed to tolerate one another, but to co-exist peacefully.
“Extremism cannot give way for peace. The way to fight it is to live by example, and religious leaders are supposed to speak against this menace tirelessly. We also have to educate ourselves, which must start from our houses,” Uzan said adding that there is also the need to eradicate poverty, which he said can be achieve if people start believing in themselves.”
The Chief Imam of Abuja, Dr Muhammad Kabir Adam, who was one of the panelists at the event, said all religious leaders have the responsibility of teaching their followers the correct knowledge of the religion, because ignorance plays a vital role in the conflict we have in our society. “The religious leaders must make followers understand the value of life, embrace one another, and respect one another, irrespective of the different religious background, knowing that no progress can be achieved without peace.”
He said a proverb in Islam hold that knowledge raises a house without pillar, ignorance demolishes a successful household to zero level.
Adam further said Islam is a total way of life that differently encourages peaceful co-existence among people of different beliefs.
“The most important thing is for people to understand themselves, with respect to their religious background. We respect what binds us together – we all believe in God.
“It is part of the Islamic believe to respect your neighbour, and you cannot determine who is your neighbour. You are expected to sincerely respect other people’s religion, not because you think it is better than yours, but it is for the purpose of understanding. We are all in the same faith, which is the worship of God, the difference is the way we do it. Islam encourages peaceful co-existence among people of different religions,” he said.
The moderator of the panel, who is also the Executive Secretary, Christian United for Israel (CUFI), Rev Samson Ozovehe, advised all religious leaders to preach the message of love, understanding and respect.