Religious leaders as agents of peace, development
Development can only come in an atmosphere where peace reigns. This is why many scholars often believe that development and peace are Siamese twins. It is for reason that it is argued that any community and society that seeks development must promote peace within its domain.
The psychology of peace being critical to development also rules the thought flow of Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode. This was evident when he hosted an Inter-Faith Parley of Religious Leaders and Organisations in Lagos recently. No wonder, Ambode was excited that two years after he assumed duty at the governor of the Centre of Excellence, there has not been religious crisis in the state. And because there are no religious crises, it has allowed his government to think right which, no doubt, has given room to accomplish some of the developmental strides the state is recording.
The parley, which had clerics from both Christian and Muslim faith in attendance, saw both sitting side by side without any qualms. Entertainers from both sides were also invited to spice the event and the performances raked in wide applause from the congregation.
In his address, Ambode said the state has enjoyed an appreciable level of religious tolerance and harmony in the last 30 months since he assumed office. He attributed this to the atmosphere of peaceful co-existence prevailing among Lagosians of different faith and ethnic leanings.
Held at the Banquet Hall, Lagos House in Ikeja, the Inter-Faith parley, Ambode said was to appreciate the contribution of the spiritual leaders to the atmosphere of peace that pervaded Lagos, which has, thereby, engendered the massive infrastructural and all round development that has taken place across the state since May 29, 2015.
Commending the religious leaders in attendance at the parley, predominantly from the Christian and Muslim faith, Ambode said their prayers and support for his administration was pivotal to the steady progress that has become synonymous with Lagos.
According to the governor, the parley was the state Government’s way of bringing them together to appreciate their commitment and contributions to the success story of Lagos.
“I just want to say a big thank you to all our spiritual fathers for all your prayers. You really don’t understand the depth of what you are doing and the truth is this, there is no how anyone can manage Lagos if we don’t have this kind of harmony, that’s the truth. No matter how brilliant you are, how intelligent or how virtuous you are, or you want to do something, one thing is to say that you want to do something; another thing is for it to work.
“Because you are having millions of people who are having different DNAs and they all converge at the same time to say this is the way to go, and it goes that way, it has to be somebody else that is doing it. You cannot make a pronouncement on a microphone and everyone would sleep on the same side and agree, there is something behind it and that thing is that spirituality.
“This gathering is therefore not in futility, it’s to show the essence of that convergence of the spirituality that exists in a cosmopolitan State like Lagos that really makes it work. So, if someone was to ask me what is the secret of my success, it’s not the brain, it’s already endowed, it’s the combination of that spiritual teamwork,” the Governor said.
Ambode also commended the religious leaders for their support and identification with State policies and programmes, especially using the pulpit in the churches and the minbar in the mosques to mobilize and sensitize Lagosians to become law abiding and discharge their civic responsibilities to the State and other citizens.
“I wanted a platform where I can bring all religious leaders together and celebrate them and I tried it last year it worked, so I decided that you know what, maybe this is another day of doing thanksgiving, let me do it again. So, it’s more or less like a celebration. So I told the Commissioner and I asked him, let’s do this every December, we would bring all our spiritual leaders together and say thank you to them. They really don’t understand, because it’s not all about bridges and flyover, peace is intrinsic, the value is more precious, it’s only in an atmosphere of peace that you can do a road. That which is immeasurable, must be celebrated before the one that is physical,” he said.
The governor also recalled the inaugural parley held last year, saying that most of the issues raised by the leaders had been implemented and that the growing economy of the State has contributed in the peace being enjoyed.
He said one of the strategies taken by his administration was to strengthen the agencies responsible for spiritual development in keeping with its all-inclusive adding that the clear evidence was the award given to Lagos State by the National Hajj Commission as the most outstanding state in Hajj operations, while the Christian Conscience Group also awarded the State as the best in Christian pilgrimages.
Ambode said that the state government also made efforts to decentralize the celebration of Eid el Fitri parties which was held for the first time in all the local governments across the State, just as he disclosed that this year’s Christmas party will also take the same pattern.
The governor also said the state recorded another first as it became the state to have decentralized the operations of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) with the inauguration of 798 Christian and Muslim leaders to join hands with the 20 Local Governments and 37 Local Council Development Areas in fostering religious harmony and peaceful coexistence through participatory democracy in the state.
“In the same vein, I wish to urge you all to continue to pray for the prosperity of our State and our people. We shall continue to collaborate with you in ensuring effective communication of our policies and programmes for you are our greatest partners in the development of our State.
“Let us persist in our good efforts in sustaining conditions that will increase our progress and bring greater prosperity; let us pray more for Lagos and do more to preserve and grow our gains. As we continue to win together and break new frontier together, Let us continue to live in peace and harmony for more of God’s mercies, favours and blessings,” Ambode said.
Earlier, in his welcome address, the Commissioner for Home Affairs, Dr Abdul-Hakeem Abdul-Lateef, eulogized the governor for commiting to serve humanity. He recalled the goodness the governor exhibited while serving as the accountant general of the state. According to the commissioner, as the Chief Imam of the Lagos State House of Assembly, he would write on behalf of the Muslim community of the Assembly to the different Lagos Ministries, Departments and Agencies for support. Abdul-Lateef disclosed that though the governor was a Christian, he was always the first to respond with support. He commended the choice of Ambode as the Governor of Lagos State, observing that the call for a Christian governor during the electioneering period in 2015 was a justified request.
“I make bold to say that the Governor did not disappoint the Christian and Muslim faithful who vigorously requested for a Christian Governor.” According to him, Ambode has made both Christians and Muslims very proud with his perfomance.
There were two lectures during the parley, one from a Christian cleric and the other from an Islamic scholar.
Rev. Dr.Kehinde Babarinde of Baptist Conference Lagos Central in his lecture titled ‘The Role of Religious Leaders in Nation Building’ commended the governor, stating the governor’s achievement are life touching and very impactful. He also believed that the administration has exhibited leadership that fear God.
He praised the governor in the manner he is tackling the menace of touts who operate under the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW). Babarinde nonetheless called on spiritual leaders to pursue peace, as it was critical to the progress of the state
On his part, the Head of Religious and Peace Studies, Lagos State University, Prof.AbdulLateef Adetona, said the task of maintaining peaceful co-existence is the role of religious leaders because the people believe they are grounded in the issues of the Lord.
He told clerics at the forum to speak truth with all and to all. He maintained that if clerics and the citizens are truthful, they will be guided away from vices and acrimony. He stated that the prophet expects that his people must do good to all whether they are of the same faith or not. He maintained that any faithful who do not work inline with this instruction of the prophet is far from the faith.
He thanked the governor for instituting NIREC even at the local government level. He called on the state government to ensure the teaching of religions in schools to instill good morals in the minds of school children at their formative years. He said this is important because a morally upright Lagos will achieve better result. He called on religious leaders to see themselves as partners, saying they should encourage politicians doing well and point out areas where they are not doing well.
He appealed to the governor to ensure that NIREC organizes lectures that promote religious tolerance.
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