[ACNS, by Rachel Farmer] Education and joint activities across different faiths will help move some of Nigeria’s most divided communities away from hatred and fear, according to the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion. Speaking at the graduation of students from Kaduna Centre for the Study of Christian – Muslim Relations in Nigeria, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, said: “education is the weapon that we must all be willing to use in our efforts to live in peaceful coexistence with one another. And that is why this institution is important . . . ”
The Secretary General, who also chairs the Kaduna State Peace Commission, called for more opportunities for citizens of different ethnicity and religions to meet and discuss.
Addressing the executive state governor, who was attending the ceremony, Dr Idowu-Fearon said: “I would encourage you wholeheartedly to see how increasing government investment in religious education can be one pillar of a response to violence and to conflict. The key purpose of education is to open our minds to new thinking – to understanding the views of others.”
He said the Kaduna Centre had been a house of peace since its foundation. “. . . perhaps we might even call it an oasis of peace – in the midst of the many challenges that we face in this part of our country.”
Dr Idowu-Fearon said there had been significant progress made in the centre since it was founded 15 years ago. “Many people have left this place transformed, committed to making progress and to being peace-builders for our communities,” he said.
“Let us hope and pray that in another 15 years, what is taught here is common in our schools, colleges and universities. That we all know much more about the ‘other’ and that we engage together much more. This graduation is a powerful image of progress and one that we can all be inspired by,” he said.
Talking about his experience of travelling around the Anglican Communion, he said: “I am sometimes concerned to discover that religious leaders do not have an in-depth knowledge of what it means to be an Anglican. We are getting our own house in order through supporting our bishops in accompanying them in their role, and through more emphasis on theological education, which is something that we have invested in at our offices in London and in our colleges, seminaries and other institutions around the world.
“We must take a similar approach here in Nigeria and particularly in the northern states. Religious leaders need to be accountable to one another. We must be willing to challenge one another when we hear things that are false.”
He encouraged all religious leaders to set a good example in engaging in activities with leaders from other religions and even consider sharing a platform on issues of mutual concern, or taking part in activities that build trust and relationships.
During the joint graduation ceremony, 40 graduates were awarded certificates, which included 15 diplomas.