By Chidinma Ewunonu-Aluko, Ibadan
The Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Oyo, Most Rev. Emmanuel Badejo, has remarked that Inter-Religious dialogue was the key and the only solution to crisis in Nigeria and the world at large.
Badejo made the remark on Saturday at the 2022 Annual symposium organised by the Catholic Diocese of Oyo, Ecumenism/Inter-Religious Commission, held at St Paul’s Pastoral Centre, Awe, Oyo.
The programme has its theme as ‘Towards National Elections 2023: The Validity Of Dialogue For Peaceful Coexistence And Development’.
Badejo said one of the ways to prepare for good elections in Nigeria was to dialogue, stand together to preempt and remove all obstacles that could impede the exercise.
“With different people signaling doubts and fears about the elections, I think that a period of reflecting together like this at any level is useful to help us exchange ideas, hoping that such ideas can spread our resolve to coexist peacefully.
“Dialogue puts everybody in a win-win situation, and it is safer and better than other acrimonious and abrasive methods of engagement which are often adopted whenever differences occur.
“Since the Second Vatican Council, ecumenical and interfaith dialogue have been a pillar of the Catholic Church’s identity and mission.
“The Holy Father Pope Francis, reiterated this in many of his recent messages and encyclicals emphasizing that dialogue and encounter among generations, tribes, races religions and confessions are the best ways to create a better world, cement harmonious relations and guarantee peace and development in our time,” he said.
The Oyo Catholic Bishop urged all citizens to ensure they participated during the next year elections as best as they could.
He said the aim of the programme which the church started more than 10 years ago had no ulterior motive than to foster peaceful coexistence and development.
“We call on the government and other authorities as well to invest in interfaith dialogue as this can help diffuse unnecessary suspicion and animosity among our peoples and help them focus on values towards the next elections.
“It is my hope and prayer that at the end of this day we will all go away more enriched by our exchanges and interactions than when we came here,” he said.
A Muslim faithful and Vice Principal of Isemi-Ile Grammar School, Mrs Asiawu Bello, urged Nigerians to live in peace in spite of the religion.
“Don’t repay evil for evil, even when one offends you, return the evil with good and possibly the person may change through your character,” she said.
The Oyo Diocesan Director of Inter-Religious dialogue, Rev. FR. Moses Alaba, said Nigerians should see themselves as one to achieve peace, development as the elections drew near.
“Let us seek our country’s stability and good governance through our religious practices and our involvement in civil duties,” he said.
Also,a representative of the Justice, Peace and Development Movement(JPDM), Catholic Diocese of Oyo, Mr Dominic Taiwo, urged citizens to ensure that they and loved ones were not used as thugs before and during the elections.
“As the elections draw near, dialoguing is very essential, when we discuss, we will bring out issues bothering us and offer solutions,” he said.
Similarly, the Oyo State Commandant of Amotekun, Col. Olayinka Olayanju, remarked that democracy could loose its meaning without dialogue.
Olayanju said violence was a sub-category of political violence, which deserved special consideration from every citizen.
He emphasised that managing election-related voilence was important in the long term effort to build a strong, democratic and peaceful society.
The Oyo Police Area Commander, CSP Elijah Adekaye, urged Nigerians, especially youths never to sacrifice their lives for just being a political thug.
“Don’t be a destructive tool in the hands of politicians, there is no permanent friend/enemy in politics, so respect fundamental human rights before and during elections for peaceful co-existence in the society,” he said.
The dignitaries at the occasion were representatives of Christians, Muslims, Traditionalists, Security agencies, among others.