The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic
Affairs (NSCIA) have signed a peace pact to de-escalate religious tensions in the 2023
general elections in Nigeria.
The peace accord was signed at the International Religious Freedom Summit 2022,
organised by the Global Peace Foundation and 70 international human rights and
religious freedom organisations in Washington D.C.
While the Sultan, who doubles as President-General of the Nigeria Supreme Council
for Islamic Affairs, NSCIA, was represented by Prof. Yusuf Usman, the apex Christian
body was represented by its immediate past President, Rev. Samson Ayokunle.
In a statement in Abuja, yesterday, Ayokunle said the leadership of the umbrella
Muslim and Christian organisations pledged to continue to work together, avoid
violence, embrace dialogue and remain committed to building resilient communities
free from fear.
He added that the two religious bodies also promised to embrace a vision of a
common humanity and speak publicly of hope for Nigeria’s peaceful and bright
The statement read: “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. And 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.”
According to Ayokunle, that was why it was important for the Sultan and CAN to sign
the declaration for a peaceful and secure Nigeria and to do so on the world stage.
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 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.
He said: “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 among the people of Nigeria, which has contributed to numerous crises for
our nation,” he added.
The statement identified some of the crises as the concerns of political
representation and the possibility of genuinely democratic governance; the
questions of judicial integrity and fairness; the issues of governmental bias,
corruption, and inaction.
Others include a grievous lack of security, owing to terrorism, militancy, cycles of
retaliation, kidnappings for ransom, sexual violence, and organised criminal
activities; mass hunger and starvation; poor agricultural policies and a lack of
education for sustainable livestock raising; mass displacement of peoples and poor
security for them and a hostile business environment and lack of jobs and education,
“Certainly, individuals will have different opinions as to the causes of and solutions
to all of these problems.
“But far more importantly, we must share a fundamental commitment to the unity of
Nigeria and to work collaboratively toward solutions through peaceful and respectful
means, affirming the dignity of one another and our brothers and sisters in Nigeria.
“We call upon all religious and political leaders, and all people of faith, to develop
and promote solutions that are grounded in the shared values of our common
humanity, and which protect and uplift the value, dignity and fundamental rights
endowed by God to every person.
“We, finally, affirm that religious leaders play a special role in leading their
communities, and have a duty to shepherd their communities in a way that promotes
peace,” the statement added.