PRESS STATEMENT
By
INTER-FAITH ACTIVITY & PARTNERSHIP FOR PEACE (IFAPP)

 POLITICISING RELIGION IS A TIME BOMB

Dated: 19th November 2014

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The attention of the Inter-Faith Activity and Partnership for Peace (IFAPP) has been drawn to the increasing politicization of religion in the run-up to the 2015 general elections in the country. We see the two main political parties in the country – the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives’ Congress (APC) - together with their various media organs and appendages as equally culpable in this unwholesome act. While the PDP accuses the APC of being an Islamic party that professes a ‘Janjaweed’ ideology, the APC in turn accuses the PDP and President Jonathan of either sponsoring Boko Haram to give Islam a bad name or of deliberately not doing enough to contain the insurgency group in order to depopulate the North ahead of the 2015 presidential election.

We strongly condemn this sort of cheap politicization of religion. Though Boko Haram claims its mission is the Islamization of the country, the truth is that just like other religious revivalist groups across the world, it is at the fringe of the very religion it professes to protect. And this is why virtually all the mainstream Muslims in the country have condemned unreservedly the brand of Islam the sect espouses.
It is easy to manipulate religion in a society where believers are largely poor, uneducated and desperately looking for someone to blame for all their woes. Largely because of this, not many people are able to see that the current politicization of religion is merely a mask over intra-elite struggles for political power and lucre. Those losing their lives from the carnages resulting from manipulating religious sentiments are never these politicians and their children but ordinary Nigerians struggling to eke out a living and provide for their children. Therefore using these ordinary Nigerians as pawns in their political chessboard is evil. Nigerians must reject any attempt by unscrupulous politicians, their foot soldiers and their institutional appendages to use them to advance their selfish quest for political power and economic advantages. Poisoning the minds of unsuspecting Nigerians with religious bigotry undermines the process of nation-building

Experiences from other countries should warn us about the dangers of igniting religious wars – from Sudan to the Balkan War to Indonesia and the Central African Republic - we have seen how manipulating religion could turn a fairly decent country into a Hobbesian state of nature where life is “nasty, brutish and short”. We plead with our politicians and their foot soldiers not to be like the Bourbons of France who learnt nothing and forgot nothing. Nigeria is the only country we have and we must do all we can to protect it from those who either do not wish it well or who privilege their personal ambitions over the collective good of all.

IFAPP will continue to work at both national and sub-national levels for the peaceful coexistence of religious groups in Nigeria through an integrated set of educational and advocacy programmes, projects and initiatives that will enlighten adherents of both faiths, defuse tension, and promote peace. We are committed to deploying interfaith dialogue to counter the machinations of self-serving politicians and failed leaders at all levels who try to mobilize religion and religious identities, sentiments and organizations for vote-seeking and intra-elite squabbles over resources and positions.
Let our religiosity motivate us towards those common virtues of greater justice, understanding, compassion and good neighborliness, and not to those jointly recognized vices such as greed, hatred, oppression, and wickedness. God’s support and love is only with those who care about fairness, compassion and love.

Signed: Mallam Nuruddeen LEMU & Rev. Fr. George EHUSANI (CO-CONVENERS)