Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, has urged the media in Nigeria to lend their platforms to advocates of peaceful understanding in order to amplify the country’s potential for harmonious coexistence.
Prof. Osinbajo was speaking on Thursday at the Inter-Faith Tolerance Dialogue hosted by the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates at the Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja.
While reminding the media of their responsibility to help Nigerians to rise above their prejudices, the vice president advised them to marginalize agents of intolerance and deny them the ability to influence impressionable minds.
“The people in the media and opinion molders have a responsibility to inspire us to think deeply about the complexity of our society.
“You have a responsibility to help us see the bigger picture, to rise above our prejudices and to apprehend the nuances that characterize inter-group relations in a plural society.
“I urge the media as gatekeepers of the public mind to lend their platforms to advocates of peace and mutual understanding and therefore amplify our potential for harmonious coexistence.
“At the same time, you must intentionally marginalize the agents of intolerance and hatred and deny them the ability to influence impressionable hearts and minds.”
Prof. Osinbajo said one truth, which religious leaders, media personalities and all people of faith, share as a common calling is the injunction to obey the golden rule to do unto others you would have them do unto you.
“Treating people the way we would like to be treated imposes a moral obligation on us to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes before we act. This is the very definition of empathy.”
The vice president, explained that the Christianity is not a religion, but that an establishment of a relationship of love, forgiveness and reconciliation between God and man.
According to him, central to the message of Christianity is that people are required to love God and then love their neighbours as themselves.
Citing the example of Imam Abubakar Abdullahi, who saved Christians in his mosque from gunmen who sought to kill them in Plateau State, Osinbajo said religious leaders must go beyond rhetoric to take deliberate actions to promote peace and tolerance.
“Our religious leaders must accept that we must go beyond rhetoric, beyond talking about tolerance, we must make the sacrifices required.
“Preaching hate and suspicion attracts more attention, and more popularity.
“So you don’t need great leadership for that. You need great leadership to tell people to love those who hate them and pray for those who curse them.”
Welcoming participants to the dialogue, the Ambassador the UAE to Nigeria, Dr. Fahad Al Tafaq, said the gathering was aimed at building mutual understanding and respect among people of different backgrounds.
He said the world, at present, is defined by increasing globalization and diversity, necessitating that people should remain united.
The ambassador said that the UAE has resolved to promote “peaceful co-existence between people of different backgrounds and different faith, which is a common ground which UAE shares with Nigeria.”
According to Ambassador Taraq, the UAE is further emphasize the country’s resolve to promote tolerance and acceptance, the Abrahamic Family House has been planned to be constructed in Abu Dhabi, the country’s capital.
He explained that the Abrahamic Family House is an inter-faith complex, hosting a mosque, a church and a synagogue right in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi.
“This aims at establishing peaceful co-existence and acceptance of the three Abrahamic religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism,” he stated.
He said that the UAE established the Ministry of Tolerance in February 2018 with a mandate to promote open and effective and dialogue between people.
“Tolerance is need in all spheres in our lives because it plays a vital role in establishing peace and love in all societies.
“It should be made clear that showing respect and tolerance to the opinions of others doesn’t mean you have to compromise your principles.”