The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), have signed a peace pact to de-escalate religious tensions and ensure a peaceful and secure atmosphere ahead of the 2023 general elections.
The peace accord was signed at the International Religious Freedom Summit 2022 organised by the Global Peace Foundation and 70 international human rights and religious freedom organisations in Washington D.C., United States.
While the Sultan, who is also the President-General of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), was represented by Prof. Yusuf Usman; CAN was represented by its immediate past President, Rev. Samson Ayokunle.
In a statement signed by Ayokunle on Wednesday in Abuja, he said the leadership of the umbrella Muslim and Christian organisations pledged to continue to work together, avoid violence, embrace dialogue and remain committed to building resilient communities that are free from fear.
According to the statement, the two religious bodies also promised to embrace a vision of common humanity and speak publicly of hope for Nigeria’s peaceful and bright future.
“This is a difficult time in Nigeria, with ever-escalating security crises and an overwhelming loss of trust in the government. And unfortunately, so much of the crisis in Nigeria has had a religious context.
“I recall the horrifying death of Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu murdered by a mob because of allegations of blasphemy. Likewise, the shocking attack on the St Francis Xavier Catholic Church on Pentecost Sunday that left so many dead. And nearly every day there seems to be another priest kidnapped or killed.
“At the same time, I know that there are so many across Nigeria, Muslims and Christians alike, who abhor this violence and only want to live in peace with their brethren of other faiths as we have done for so long.
“The Sultan of Sokoto is one of those men, and I thank him for how he swiftly condemned these kinds of attacks. We will only build a stronger Nigeria that is able to tackle these urgent issues that are destroying our country from lack of security, accountability, and corruption, to conflicts between different peoples and faiths, to hunger and the economic situation, if we religious leaders determine together to truly lead our people,” he said.
The cleric added that this was why it was important for the Sultan and CAN to sign the ‘Declaration for a Peaceful and Secure Nigeria’, and to do so on the world stage.
He said, “The Declaration we signed lays out a number of principles that we believe all Nigerians can readily affirm. It states that all people are endowed by the Creator with inherent value and fundamental rights, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, culture, region or the many other differences that often divide us, and that the essential freedom and dignity of every person must be respected and protected.”
Ayokunle said that they also pledged to demand that free and fair democratic elections should be conducted in peace and for the benefit of all Nigerians regardless of ethnicity, religion or geographical zone.