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Nigeria’s diversity, a source of strength, potential cause of conflict – DG

Nigeria’s diversity is said to be a source of strength and richness but also a potential cause of conflict and violence.

 

The Director General of the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), Dr Joseph Ochogwu, cautioned during the maiden National Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief in Nigeria, organised by a non-governmental organisation, Search for Common Ground Nigeria (SFCG) in Abuja where a toll-free line dedicated to support victims of religious discrimination was unveiled.

Ochogwu said the conference underscored the urgency of addressing religious intolerance and discrimination in a heterogeneous and pluralistic society like Nigeria.

“Nigeria is a diverse and pluralistic country with over 250 ethnic groups and various religions, such as Christianity, Islam, African Traditional Religion and others.

“This diversity is a source of strength and richness but also a potential cause of conflict and violence, as we have witnessed in recent years.

“The escalation of religious intolerance, hatred and discrimination has resulted in the violation of human rights, the disruption of social cohesion and the threat to peace and security.

“In a nation as diverse and culturally rich as ours, the principles of tolerance, understanding, and respect for varying beliefs are not just ideals but fundamental pillars upon which our society stands,” Ochogwu said.

SFCG Country Director, Fatima Abubakar, while speaking, explained that the toll-free line was aimed at combating religious bias and promoting freedom of religion in Nigeria.

Abubakar added that the line is designed to provide support and assistance to individuals who have faced discrimination or persecution due to their religious affiliation.

She pointed out that the toll-free line is to further provide an Early Warning/Early Response (EWER) mechanism to tackle religious-based violations and violence as a component of the “Protecting and Promoting Freedom of Religion and Belief in Nigeria” project, funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands.

“We have been doing the talking all this while. This is time to walk the talk as we hit the road today with our toll-free lines meant to track violations and abuses based on religion and belief in all the geo-political zones of Nigeria.

The theme of this conference, “Building a Community of Practice on Freedom of Religion or Beliefs,” encapsulates our collective vision of fostering a society where individuals from all faiths and beliefs can coexist harmoniously, embracing diversity and respecting each other’s rights to religious freedom.

“This gathering serves as a platform to share experiences, best practices, and innovative strategies for advancing FoRB in Nigeria.

“Our journey in programming on FoRB at Search for Common Ground has been marked by both challenges and achievements.

“We began our programming on Freedom of Religion and Belief (FoRB) with a project in 2018 which advocated for the protection of Holy Sites where religious buildings were protected and projected as sacred and should be preserved”, Abubakar stated.

She, however, noted that the toll-free line, 08000002233, dedicated to freedom of religion or belief, is intended to be utilised by individuals who have experienced violations of freedom of religion or belief, or by someone who knows such individuals, to speak up and have their voices heard.

The Ambassador of the Kingdom of Netherlands in Nigeria, Wouter Plomp, emphasised the significance of safeguarding one of the fundamental rights of humanity; the freedom to believe to worship as well as express one’s faith without fear or constraints.

“Diversity is what makes society flourish, and companies with diverse workforces perform better economically.

“We must reflect on and address religious discrimination and violence, learning from each other’s practices and traditions for a more inclusive society.

“Let us seize this moment to make steps together towards a future where no one faces religious discrimination and violence,”, the Netherlands envoy said.

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