Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama has blamed religious manipulation as the major factor for the security challenges in the country.
He said that such manipulations are targeted at the gullible ones to perpetuate conflict and disunity in the country.
He made this position known at a national policy roundtable on the network of policymakers to support reconciliation, peace and security, held on Monday in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the event was organised by the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), in collaboration with InternationalCentre for Inter-religious and Intercultural dialogue, as well as the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies.
According to the Minister, the communal lifestyle of Africans is largely expressed in religious beliefs, which facilitate solidarity, togetherness, love and the promotion of other values that are central to our human ecosystem.
‘But regrettably, religion and communal living are painted as fundamentals that are inimical to peace, security and development.
‘The political history of post-independent Nigeria is awash with tragic instances of violent conflicts and acrimony.
‘And, this is as a result of the manipulation of religion, and other identity markers amongst ourselves.
‘These acts of manipulation have resulted in structural, physical, psychological violence that has manifested itself in the destruction of lives and properties, a mass displacements of people and other humanitarian crises, destitution, the rising rate of poverty and ethno-religious suspicion, fear and so forth.
‘It has been absolutely disastrous for us as a people, the manipulation of religion, false manipulation of religion, if we look at all the religions they all preach peace and love.
‘But we discovered that there are always individuals who find ways of manipulating religion to create conflicts,’ Onyeama said.
He also noted that religious manipulation is nothing new to Nigeria, explaining that, for as long as mankind is on this planet, they had always claimed to be enlightened.
‘We claim that in the 21st century that we are enlightened and a higher level of species on this earth.
‘But yet for some reasons, we cannot get beyond some of these prejudices and constantly fall prey to those who choose to manipulate religion, and other differences to cause disunity and conflict.
‘Nigerians cherished faiths, and indeed, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has recognised its enormous relevance in the promotion of the cardinal principles and objectives of the state’, he further said .
Onyeama also said that institution of religion has served as a platform for the conception and implementation of public policies and programmes and for mobilization of citizens participation in governance and decision making processes.
‘Without a doubt, religion has contributed to place in Nigeria in an advantageous position in the comity of nations’.
In his remarks, IPCR Director General, Dr Bakut Tswah Bakut urged religious leaders to engage themselves in influencing policies that would positively support reconciliation, peace and security in Nigeria.
‘More efforts should be made to promote understanding of the basic tenets of faith among the adherents at all levels of religious hierarchies.
‘And we believe that teaching the citizens about unity, love for one another and peace in various places of worship will go a long way in curbing insecurity.
‘The institute and its partners will also drive the process of promoting interfaith dialogue and peace building in Nigeria’, Bakut said.