Coronavirus: Expert Charges Clerics to Preach Hope-Filled Messages

Former Co-Chairman of Nigeria Inter-Religious Council,  NIREC, in Lagos State, Dr Abdullahi Shuaib has urged religious leaders to prioritize messages of hope in their preaching to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on the people.

Dr Shuaib made the call at a virtual Faith Leaders’ Dialogue Forum organised by Cardinal Onaiyekan Foundation for Peace in collaboration with Faith for Peace Initiative.

He said considering the devastating effects of COVID-19 on socio-economic activities of the people, there was the need for religious leaders to provide spiritual tonic that would rekindle the hope of their subjects in God that with strong faith and prayers their loss would be replenished. 

Dr Shuaib who lauded the initiative of faith based organisations by providing palliatives to less-privileged, said more would be necessary after coronavirus pandemic but in a more coordinated manner.

“They need not to duplicate their activities but complement one another. If one is addressing the economic aspects, others could look at the areas of human and health development”.

He called on religious leaders to see themselves as development partners in areas of provision of food to the people “as many are crying of hunger and the problem of hunger is deadlier than the coronavirus itself”.

Dr Shuaib called on 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.

Contributing, National President, Youth Wing of Christian Association of Nigeria, Apostle Nyeneime Andy said the number of individuals tagging COVID-19 as a scam would have been reduced if the government had carried religious leaders along from the beginning 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. In fact, people would have taken the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 more serious and the idea of the virus being a scam would be minimal if some religious leaders have been part of the taskforce”.

Also speaking, National Amirah, Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria, FOMWAN, Hajia Halimah Jibril noted that COVID-19 has made everyone to be vulnerable and called on religious leaders to use their resources to empower people.

“This is the time to use both Zakaat and Tithe to build individuals and to give hope to the hopeless people.”

In a remark, Executive Secretary, NIREC, Reverend-Father Cornelius Omonokhua noted that COVID-19 had challenged people’s faith and that was why the council took prayers as essential as it beat all imaginations how a virus could shut down the whole world.

The chief host of the programme and the Executive Director, Cardinal Onaiyekan Foundation for Peace, Reverend-Sister Agatha Chikelue emphasized that COVID-19 does not know colour, race or religion as it has wreaked havoc on people’s livelihood and there was the need for interfaith collaboration on how people could bounce back. 

The convener of the dialogue forum and Director, Faith for Peace Initiative, Mallam Tajudeen Alabede noted that the coronavirus pandemic has brought untold hardship on the masses and interfaith community being a critical stakeholder has a role to play in the economic recovery of the people.

Other speakers at the one-day dialogue forum, which included Director, Institute of Church and Society, Ibadan, Very-Reverend Kolade Fadahunsi, National President, National Council of Muslim Youths Organisations, NACOMYO, Mallam Sani Suleiman, Executive Chairman, Muslim Public Affairs Centre, Alhaji Kamor Disu, Mrs Mary Asibi- Gonsum of Jos Archdiocese, Catholic Church and Senior Project Coordinator, Search for Common Ground, Mrs Fatima Abubakar-Madaki called on interfaith community to team up and produce  policy recommendations to government that would better the economy after COVID-19.

The theme of the dialogue forum is “Roles of Faith and Inter-faith Communities in Post COVID-19 Economic Recovery”.

Ridwan Fasasi

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