Plateau Government has established an Inter-religious Council as part of its efforts to facilitate sustainable peace in the state.
Gov. Simon Lalong announced this on Sunday at an interdenominational Church service held at St Louis Catholic Church, Jos, to commemorate the third edition of the Annual Plateau Day of Forgiveness and Reconciliation.
“Tomorrow, I shall be inaugurating the Plateau State Interreligious Council, a body of highly respected religious leaders and experts in the field of conflict mediation and peacebuilding to further demonstrate our administration’s commitment to repairing the broken social fabric of our society,” Lalong said.
He assured Plateau people of his commitment to protecting lives and property and also punishing perpetrators of crime, particularly kidnapping, which had become a major security threat in the society.
He urged the people to forgive past hurt to ensure restoration of sustainable peace in the state, saying “We are very conscious of the fact that the process of restoring peace and confidence among the people cannot succeed without forgiveness and reconciliation”.
The governor said the Plateau Peace Agency had held over 87 multi-level dialogue sessions with conflict parties across 17 Local Government Areas of the state, to promote the culture of peace through forgiveness and reconciliation which had led to peace agreements.
He said that the 40 outreaches were organised for communities to advocate and promote the agenda of peace through forgiveness and reconciliation
He, however, expressed concern over the exploitation of the social media by merchants of crisis in order to frustrate the peace efforts of the government.
“I am sure you have read some posts on social media suggesting that there is no peace in Plateau and that this government has not achieved anything.
“This is far from the obvious reality that even the blind can see. Such people clearly do not wish our state well.
“My appeal to our elites, particularly political and religious leaders, is to apply extra caution in their public utterances which are easily embraced by their followers sometimes with negative zeal leading to the destruction of lives and property.
“Let us avoid the propagation of hate, dangerous speeches and other forms of toxic narratives that frustrate dialogue, forgiveness and reconciliation thereby endangering peace and security,” he said.
He said the day of forgiveness was part of the Plateau Roadmap to Peace, which was launched by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2018 and implemented by the Plateau Peace Building Agency.
“On this day, therefore, we do not try to trivialise or gloss over the trauma, pain and agony that many people have undergone on account of the various crises that took lives and property. Others are still bearing physical scars of their experiences.
“What this day rather emphasises is how to make the best of the past ugly experiences and chart the way forward. If truly we want to move forward, then there is every need to encourage healing that makes us do things differently,” he said.
Lalong thanked traditional, community, religious institutions and civil society organisations for their efforts at fostering mutual understanding and cooperation, trust and community resilience.
In his homily, the Archbishop of Jos, Rev. Mathew Audu, said the failure of individuals and communities to forgive one another had increased the burden of strife, bitterness, anger and violence which provided the ready flame for crisis.
Audu said Christ demonstrated forgiveness by not only laying down his life for humanity but admonishing his followers to do the same and live in peace.
Speaking at the event, the Executive Secretary, Nigeria Christian Pilgrims Commission, Rev. Yakubu Pam, commended Lalong for conceiving the Day for forgiveness, saying it was for the good of humanity rather than the embers of hatred, bigotry and mediocrity.
Dignitaries at the event were the state chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Rev. Fr. Polycarb Lubo and Deputy Chief Imam of Jos Central Mosque, Sheikh Ismail Adam.
Special prayers were conducted for the achievement of peace and reconciliation in Plateau and Nigeria.