Friday, November 23, 2012

Former British Leader Unveils Plan for Nigeria

Blair, others unveil peace deal for Nigeria

Thursday, 22 November 2012 00:00 From Oghogho Obayuwana, John-Abba Ogbodo and Emeka Anuforo Abuja News - National
Nigerian Guardian

• Army, police renew effort to tackle terrorism

• Catholic, Muslim leaders list terms for justice, security

NIGERIA’s efforts to promote peace amid violence that has claimed hundreds of lives have received global support with former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, leading a fresh initiative in this regard.

The faith-based programme already has the endorsement of the Archbishop-designate of Canterbury, Bishop Justin Welby. His Royal Highness, the Prince Ghazi Bin Muhammad of Jordan is also a principal actor in the new initiative.

This is coming as the army and police are re-strategising to check terrorism.

In a statement, Welby stressed his eagerness to see the scheme come to success. His words: “Thirty-four years after first coming to Nigeria, and with more than 70 visits since, in all parts of this vibrant, passionate, talented and promising country, I am both challenged and profoundly excited by this initiative. In service to Nigeria, it offers a contribution to the hope of peace across the whole country. It is a service, there is no question of bringing some external solutions, and peace and development in this country are always made possible only by Nigerians. Thank you for allowing me to contribute to the future of a country I admire and love.”

A joint statement from the participating parties Thursday stressed that the three eminent world figures would work in Nigeria to facilitate truce between Christian and Muslim communities.

It noted: “The country has seen deep divisions and tensions between these communities in recent times, caused by the challenges of poverty and barriers of ethnicity, class and religion. The Tony Blair Faith Foundation will embark on a plan of action with local Christian and Muslim faith leaders and young people. These leaders and young people will work together, as well as with the Foundation, to build sustainable co-existence through joint leadership, education and action on shared challenges, such as preventing deaths from malaria.

“To demonstrate the nature of the work, Mr. Blair, Bishop Welby, and HRH Prince Ghazi took part in a Faith Foundation-run video conference between Muslim and Christian students to encourage greater dialogue and understanding between the faiths. This aimed to break down barriers, and give the students the knowledge to resist extremist voices and ideology – working towards a longer-term peace for the next generation in Nigeria. The Foundation’s high school programme, Face to Faith, brings high school students together in over 19 countries so they can learn from each other directly, learn to respect difference – not fear it – and ultimately replace conflict with cooperation.”

The trio released a video-message Thursday where they spoke of the support of the Nigerian Christian and Muslim.

Blair said: “My Foundation and I are deeply committed to addressing the challenges of religious reconciliation in Nigeria. Understanding and respecting different faiths is central to securing sustainable peace, particularly where those who seek to misuse religion for violent ends aim to destroy it. Bishop Justin Welby has been doing extremely good work in Nigeria towards exactly this goal. I hope that over the coming months, the work he and my Foundation do will go towards healing the rifts and divisions amongst faiths in the country, bringing unity and peaceful co-existence.”

President, Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, described the move as crucial.

He was quoted as saying: “This is an important moment for us as a country. I believe in progressive dialogue, dialogue where we can set goals and timelines. To find great people coming from around the world to help us in this is incredible. Thank you, Mr. Blair, your Foundation, Bishop Justin Welby and Prince Ghazi for giving us practical things to help us work together.”

The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, on his part, stressed: “The videoconference was an eye opener. What the children discussed captured exactly what we are trying to do. We need to understand one another. We need education to know what our religions teach us. We need to love one another like we love ourselves.”

As a way of addressing the security challenges in the country, the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police chiefs met yesterday in Abuja with a resolve that there would be no hiding place for those behind the ugly situation.

During a meeting at the Force headquarters in Abuja, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt.-Gen. Onyeabor Azubuike Ihejirika, expressed the determination of security outfits to restore peace in the country, stressing that allegations of highhandedness against security operatives in some of the trouble spots were meant to distract attention.

“Most of the allegations are malicious and are meant to distract the security agencies from the serious task of riding the nation of terrorism. If you have followed the trend very well, these allegations always come at a time the security agencies are making tremendous progress. When we do operations and arrest these hoodlums, recover their weapons, the following week, someone will come to the air with some allegations to dampen the morale of troops and to discourage action,” he said.

The COAS said that his visit to the force headquarters was a response to an earlier one done by the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Abubakar.

The police boss said the cooperation was a good development and assured that there would be no hiding place for criminals.

Besides, the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue (P.C.I.D.), Vatican City, Rome and the Centre for Interreligious Dialogue (C.I.D.) of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organisation (I.C.R.O.), Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran ended their Eighth Colloquium in Rome affirming their “common belief in the One God who created all things and in the principle of justice and its application in personal, communitarian, social, political, economic, cultural and judicial spheres of human society.”

That was one of the positions adopted in a statement issued at the colloquium with the theme “Catholic and Muslim cooperation in promotion of justice in the contemporary world,” which was held from November 19 to 21 2012, under the joint presidency of Jean Cardinal Louis Tauran of the P.C.I.D. and Dr. Mohammad Bagher Korramshad of the I.C.R.O.

They also expressed their awareness of and concern for current challenges, including the economic crisis, the environmental issue, the weakening of the family as an institution and threats to world peace.

Extracts from the statement sent to The Guardian by Fr. Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua of P.C.I.D also affirmed their belief in justice as a virtue based on human dignity, which requires the right exercise of reason and the illumination of God.

The statement called for recognition of, and respect for, freedom of conscience as conditions for justice in the societies, the dynamic nature of which allows it to be adapted to meet the new challenges of the contemporary world.

It noted the responsibility of religious leaders, institutions and, indeed, every believer to denounce injustice and oppression in all their forms and to promote justice all around the world.

Expressing the demand that, for the sake of the promotion of justice in today’s world, Muslims and Christians continue to deepen their understanding of one another through ongoing dialogue and cooperation, participants stressed the need for the results of the meeting to be communicated to the people of their respective communities and societies so that they can have a real effect in the world.

They also expressed their pleasure at being received at the end of the meeting by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, who greeted and encouraged them to continue on the path of an authentic and fruitful dialogue.

The next Colloquium, will take place in Tehran, Iran, in 2014.

Meanwhile, with the signing of an agreement on Wednesday night in Abuja by Systems Dynamics and Selex Galileo, British and Italian concerns have joined hands with Nigeria on the strengthening of the nation’s current security arrangement.

The Federal Government has consistently asked for the support of the international community to help it stem the terrorist tide that has engulfed parts of the nation in recent times. There have also been direct appeals to western countries for security support.

At the signing of the trilateral agreement, the Acting British High Commissioner to Nigeria Giles Lever described the event as a landmark achievement considering the current security challenges that Nigeria now faces and the time it took for due diligence by the parties involved to be completed.

Speaking shortly after the signing of the agreement in the presence of the representatives of the Nigerian security officials and the armed forces, he said following a charge given to all ambassadors and high commissioners by British Prime Minister David Cameron for closer economic dealings with nations, the working together now could only be in Nigeria’s interest.

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