FIIDI CELEBRATES INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE




Peaceful coexistence was a theory developed and applied by the Soviet Union at various points during the Cold War in the context of its ostensibly Marxist–Leninist foreign policy and was adopted by Soviet-influenced "Socialist states" that they could peacefully coexist with the capitalist bloc.


In response to the declaration by the United Nations General Assembly for  observation of  August 22nd every year beginning from 2019 as the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief.The Foundation for Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue Initiatives (FIIDI) organized a Community Outreach in Port Harcourt (Nigeria) on Thursday 22 August 2019.  The one day event had well outlined  programmes which   began earlier  with presention of  Awards by the Country  Coordinator MR. OLUSHOLA AKANDE to two distingushed traditional rulers in Rivers state as part of the activities marking the day.



The traditional rulers awarded are HRH MENE PANEDOM BADOM, the  MENE BUA NUMUU of GOKANA and EZE EMEKA IHUNWO,JP, the PARAMOUNT RULER of WOJI KINGDOM, for their contribution in promoting tolerance, acceptance and peaceful coexistence in their respective communities over the years.


The event later moved on to a well attended lecture delivered by

MR. OZURUMBA CYRIL, DR. EMMANUEL NWABUATU and MR.IGE AKEEM.

In his opening speech the  Country Coordinator of FIIDI in Nigeria, MR OLUSHOLA AKANDE said, "Nigeria's  constitution stipulates that neither the federal nor the state governments shall establish a state religion and prohibits discrimination on religious grounds. He said the constitution provides for freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, including the freedom to change one’s religion and to manifest and propagate religion “in worship, teaching, practice, and observance,” provided these rights are consistent with the interests of defense, public safety, order, morality, or health, and protecting the rights of others. The constitution also states it shall be the duty of the state to encourage interfaith marriages and to promote the formation of associations that cut across religious lines and promote “national integration.” It prohibits political parties that limit membership on the basis of religion or with names that have a religious connotation. We see these constitutional provisions as an avenue for dialogue, acceptance and tolerance".








The day climaxed with presentation of certificates to distinguished contributors to success of the event and  recommendations on how to enhance peaceful coexistence among people of different religions and ethnic nationalities in Nigeria were reached.






Below are the recommendations:


Education- (My people perish because of lack of knowledge) Re-orientation of our educational system: The bane of every society is ignorance. If you should ask me, I would suggest that if religion must be taught in schools, it should be General theology. This will reduce the level ignorance and intolerance that exist among the coming generation. Secondly, many will not be gullible as to take everything hook line and sinker from their religious leaders. Therefore, government should look into the teachings of religious studies that would encompass both major religions in the country to improve religious tolerance. We must begin to sensitize through dialogue, training, adverts, jingles empowerment programmes that educate and engage our wards and children in communities towards self achievement, self employment and self-actualization.


Family - Re-inventing the family and community value-system: We must start to reinvent the family and community system of governance where we all come together as kindred in a community and learn to tolerate each other. It is barbaric killing each other because of land, cattle and crops in this twenty-first century. Communities must learn to come together to solve disputes amicably and when such matter/disputes cannot be resolved, should be referred to a court of law. Therefore, government must increase awareness through advert, jingles and community relations.


Religion - Criminalizing Religious Activities that foster violence: Criminalizing religious upheaval, ethnic violence, group violence, religious hate speech, spreading and teaching false doctrine, unwholesome and barbaric activities. Closing down places of worship where some of these hate-speeches and problems emanate will serve as deterrent to others and reduce such activities. Constant dialogue among religious bodies will foster unity and encourage religious tolerance among the leaders who will in turn preach word of peace, unity and tolerance to their flocks.


Data - A database of historical Records: Most of the community problems today are based on Land matters, turned, or termed to religious wars! Therefore, the history of each community, family and Land must be well and truthfully documented and submitted to the national archive or database for future references for settling disputes. In so doing, each individual can access such information online without recourse to violence. We are in the digital age where any amount of data can be stored. Having such records will also solve issues of Land appropriation, grabbing and violence related to Land matters.


Social Media Hype: The biggest problem gradually killing this country today or forcing the country into chaos is social Media. We all believe what we see and read on social media. Without confirmation, we forward to all our contacts. You will all agree with me, the simplest, fastest and cheapest way to spread news – fake or real is social media. Within few minutes, millions are reading and forming their opinion and responding immediately. It’s time government starts punishing for hate speeches, spreading false information, unwholesome and barbaric videos. We have been hearing these for sometimes, but this fake information is still rampant today!


Value-System -Bribery and corruptions: We must eschew bribery and corruptions, bribery and injustice in all forms and we can only do this when we drum it into our children and wards. These days, Part of the problem today is also the court system of delaying cases for years and therefore perpetuate injustice. Justice delayed is justice denied. Hence, it emboldens individuals, community to seek redress themselves, which later develop into feuds, community disturbances, killings and hatred.



Justice and Punishment: Punishing offenders as at when due is one the first and quick solution to curbing violence in whatever form it may come. When corruptions pervades the land and the law is ineffective or refused to be administered, then there will be total chaos and things will fall apart, and center will not hold again.  The court must work assiduously to improve quick and prompt delivery of judgment.



Distinguish guest, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for us to reflect and ask ourselves, what legacy do we want to leave behind for the coming generations. Not just your children, but your neighbors’, your community, your State and our Country.


TEXT OF SPEECH BY OLUSHOLA AKANDE


INTERNATIONAL DAY COMMEMORATING THE VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE BASED ON RELIGION OR BELIEF 22 AUGUST 2019

Statement by Akande Olushola, Country Coordinator, Foundation for Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue Initiatives (FIIDI), Nigeria.

PORT HACOURT, 22 AUGUST, 2019.


Good morning, Mr. Chairperson, Invited Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

As the world celebrates the International Day for the Victims of Violence Based on Religion or Belief, I want to convey a special greeting on behalf of the Founder & Director of the Foundation for Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue Initiatives (FIIDI) in Canada and myself to the people of our beloved nation, Nigeria. 2019 marks the very first year August 22 is celebrated around the globe after it was officially designated by the United Nations General Assembly on the 28th of May 2019 by resolution A/RES/73/xx. The International Day aims to honor the victims and survivors of religious violence who often remain forgotten around the world. Therefore, today we celebrate the efforts of many organizations and individuals like FIIDI who continue to contribute efforts to mitigate (and one day end) religious violence in our communities around the world. The path to promoting religious tolerance in our communities is not an easy one but with commitment and perseverance we see hope in bringing communities together to live in dignity and in dialogue.

FIIDI remains committed at all levels, to promote intercultural and interreligious understanding and to empower communities in peacebuilding activities that contribute to living together in dignity and dialogue. Today, I am happy to share with you that FIIDI has supported activities to celebrate this day in four (4) West African countries namely: Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Burkina Faso and our beloved nation, Nigeria. This commitment amplifies our awareness (education) based approach to address and prevent religious and ethnic violence affecting the communities we serve in Africa.

A key dimension of our work as a Foundation relates to promoting intercultural and interreligious dialogue and to give communities the opportunity to take ownership of our initiatives. We underscore the important role played by community leaders in either fueling or mitigating violence at the community level. There has been an alarming spike in recent years in hate speech and incitement to violence against individuals or communities, based on their identity. Awareness creation and capacity building in our various institutions and communities on such issues is another form of our contribution as a Foundation to complement the existing efforts of the state to promote peace and fulfill the development aspiration of our nation.

Freedom of religion or belief, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to peaceful assembly and the right to freedom of association are interdependent, interrelated and mutually reinforcing. They are enshrined in articles 18, 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Upholding these rights plays an important role in the fight against all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief.


Moreover, the Nigerian constitution stipulates that neither the federal nor the state governments shall establish a state religion and prohibits discrimination on religious grounds. It provides for freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, including the freedom to change one’s religion and to manifest and propagate religion “in worship, teaching, practice, and observance,” provided these rights are consistent with the interests of defense, public safety, order, morality, or health, and protecting the rights of others. The constitution also states it shall be the duty of the state to encourage interfaith marriages and to promote the formation of associations that cut across religious lines and promote “national integration.” It prohibits political parties that limit membership on the basis of religion or with names that have a religious connotation. We see these constitutional provisions as an avenue for dialogue, acceptance and tolerance.

There are continuing acts of intolerance and violence based on religion or belief against individuals, including against persons belonging to religious communities and religious minorities in Nigeria and around the world. The number and intensity of such incidents, which are often of a criminal nature and may have international characteristics, are increasing. Unfortunately, Nigeria is renowned for violence based on religion or belief. Religious violence is very common in our country. Nigeria is a large country both in terms of size, population, and importance on both a regional and global scale and few issues are as central to the national ethos as religion.

According to Pew, in 2018 more than a quarter of the world's countries experienced a high incidence of hostilities motivated by religious hatred, mob violence related to religion, terrorism, and harassment of women for violating religious codes. In the same vein, a 2018 Minority Rights Group report indicates that mass killings and other atrocities are increasing in war-torn and stable countries alike. Bloody encounters were recorded in over 50 countries. The reported deadly incidents involving minorities were concentrated in Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, India, Myanmar, Pakistan and Bangladesh. As a Foundation, we look forward to working with state and non-state actors to find attainable solutions to address symptoms as well end such acts of violence in Africa.

I would like to conclude on a high note; key organizations including the International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID), the World Council of Churches and the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers are making great strides as promoters of religious tolerance and remain strong contributors to global peace. I am encouraged to see these like-minded organizations actively taking an indispensable role in building peaceful and stable communities around the world. The efforts of these organizations are generating new strategies and recommendations such as the Plan of Action for Religious Leaders from Africa to Prevent Incitement to Violence that Could Lead to Atrocity Crimes.

So, let us stand up and applaud the achievements of others and commit ourselves today to promote peace, security and sustainable development for a better tomorrow. Please join me in this commitment and wish all Nigerians a happy International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief. I thank you all!!!


Akande Olushola Country Coordinator Foundation for Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue Initiatives (FIIDI)

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