Dr Abdullahi Shuaib, former Co-Chairman of Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) in Lagos, has urged religious leaders to prioritise messages of hope in their sermon to reduce the effects of COVID-19 on the people.
Shuaib, also the Chief Executive Officer of Jaiz Foundation, made the call on Sunday at a virtual Faith Leaders’ Dialogue Forum organised by Cardinal Onaiyekan Foundation for Peace in collaboration with Faith for Peace Initiative.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the theme of the dialogue forum is: “Roles of Faith and Inter-Faith Communities in Post COVID-19 Economic Recovery’’.
According to him, there is the need for religious leaders to provide spiritual tonic that will rekindle the hope of their subjects in God, considering the devastating effects of the COVID-19 on the socio-economic activities of the people.
Shuaib urged religious leaders to constantly preach message of hope to their followers for them to have strong faith to recover all they had lost.
He lauded the initiative of faith-based organisations in providing palliatives to the less privileged, saying that more would be necessary, after the pandemic but in a more coordinated manner.
“They need not duplicate their activities but complement one another.
”If one is addressing the economic aspects, others can look at the areas of human and health development,’’ Shuaib said.
He called on religious leaders to see themselves as development partners in the areas of provision of foods to the people, saying many people were starving.
Shuaib also urged the NIREC to see to the establishment of an Inter-Faith COVID-19 Council that would coordinate the responses of the Faith and Inter-Faith communities to the coronavirus crisis in Nigeria.
Also speaking, Apostle Nyeneime Andy, National President, Youth Wing of the Christian Association of Nigeria (YOWICAN), was surprised that some persons were still doubting the existence of the disease in the country.
According to him, the number of such individuals tagging the disease as a scam will have reduced, if government had carried religious leaders along from the onset, considering their influence and closeness to the people.
“Government should see religious leaders as partners in fighting the virus because of their influence on people.
”Infact people would have taken the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 more seriously and the idea of the virus being a scam would be minimal, if some religious leaders have been part of the task force,’’ Nyeneime said.
On her part, Hajia Halimah Jibri, National Amirah, Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN), said the COVID-19 had made the citizens to be vulnerable and called on religious leaders to use their resources to empower them.
“This is the time to use both Zakaat and Tithe to build individuals and to give hope to the hopeless people,’’ she said.
In his remark, the Executive Secretary, NIREC, Rev. Fr. Cornelius Omonokhua, noted that the COVID-19 had challenged the faith.
He noted it that it was as a result of this that the council took prayers as essential, as it beat all imaginations how a virus could shut down the entire world.
Rev. Sis. Agatha Chikelue, the Chief host of the programme and the Executive Director, Cardinal Onaiyekan Foundation for Peace, noted that the COVID-19 was not a respecter of colour, race or religion, as it had wreaked havoc on peoples’ livelihood.
Chikelue said there was the need for an interfaith collaboration on how people could bounce back.
Malam Tajudeen Alabede, the Convener of the Dialogue Forum and Director, Faith for Peace Initiative, said the Coronavirus pandemic had brought untold hardship on the masses.
Alabede said that the inter-faith community, being a critical stakeholder, had a role to play in the economic recovery of the people.
Other speakers at the one-day forum called on the inter-faith community to team up and produce policy recommendations to government that would improve the economy after the COVID-19. (NAN)