There are moves by Christian and Muslim leaders in the country to restore confidence among the adherents of the two religions in the wake of the security bedevilling the country. Weekly Trust reports
"The bishop is brave to have gone there," said someone in a crowd of Ibo traders on Enugu/Masallaci Street Junction of Jos, who assembled to watch Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama emerge from the Jos Central Mosque after his historic visit to the Imam, Sheik Balarabe Dawud.
In towns where harmony between Christians and Muslims is a matter of course, Archbishop Kaigama's visit to Sheikh Dawud would rarely be noticed. But in a Jos known today for segregated living where Christians and Muslims stay as far apart from each other as they can, Kaigama's daring mission Thursday to the heart of the Jos Islamic community had to raise some interest.
Both the archbishop and his host knew just how significant the visit was.
"I came to the Central Mosque first of all to dispel the notion that Muslims and Christians in Plateau State cannot meet," the bishop said upon arriving earlier and stating his mission to the Mosque."
He elaborated while speaking to newsmen immediately after rising from his meeting with the Imam: "Christians and Muslims in Plateau can meet and as you see, we are here together now. We can meet because there are good Muslims and there are good Christians and they can meet. It's only the bad ones that are causing trouble. This is why we have come and you have seen how we have been well received in the mosque."
The archbishop and his entourage, duly clad in their white cassocks, had loaded a truck with relief materials meant for the people in two camps in Rikkos and Gangare, the communities in Jos North Local Government Area worst hit by the flood two weeks ago which drowned no fewer than 40 people, swept hundreds of houses, and displaced more than a thousand people.
Discussing his decision to take some succour to the displaced persons, Archbishop Kaigama said, "We have come also to share in the tragedy that affected our brothers and sisters, mostly of the Islamic faith, due to the flood (in Rikkos and neighbouring communities). Due to the flood, the people lost lives and lost properties. So, we came in a symbolic gesture to the chief imam here and together we are going to visit them (displaced people) and we've brought some articles : food and other materials, to help them."
In his response to the gesture, the Chief Imam of the Jos Central Mosque, Sheikh Balarabe Dawud said it was like the Bishop to want to associate with the Muslim community in their time of need.
"At a time like this when we are in pain because of that flood, it is reassuring to have leaders like you showing love and concern and I deeply appreciate your coming," the Imam told the catholic clergy.
Asking for more of such acts of such acts of love, the Imam said: "I must ask for even closer collaboration among Muslims and Christians because together we can overcome a lot of the societal ills that affect us."
He thanked the archbishop for identifying with Muslims each time they have any difficulty and for always taking an objective view of things each time there is crisis anywhere in Plateau State.
The Imam congratulated the archbishop on a peace award he won recently.
Despite his Christian convictions deepened by decades of practice and confirmed by his rank as an archbishop and head of the elite Jos Catholic Archdiocese, the cleric believes that God is as much a denominator for Islam as He is for Christianity and that where you come from, you are first a human being before all else.
"The social, political and economic structures in our country are meant to serve the common good, but unfortunately they seem to serve individual good and selfish interests," he said in that address, continuing, "there should be a fresh beginning to a new solidarity, a new patriotism, a new neighbourliness and a new way of looking at ourselves: children of God rather than merely northerners, southerners, Muslims or Christians who treat each other with great contempt."
In his continuing search for enduring peace, Kaigama had a letter handy during his visit of Thursday to Jos Cetral Mosque Imam. Presenting the letter to the Imam, the archbishop introduced it as a document suggesting how Christian youths and Muslim youths should be joined together in the issues of justice.
In Kaduna, Sheikh Ahmad Mahmud Gumi used his Tafsir to call for peaceful coexistence among Muslims and Christians, saying it is time all religions in Nigeria to understand one another.
Sheikh Gumi said since both Muslims and Christians have already agreed with the Nigerian arrangement, the only way out for the country is for the adherents of both religions, Islam and Christianity, to understand their differences to move the country forward.
"Since we have agreed to live with one another peacefully, it is therefore time for all Nigerians to live with one another in peace. If we work together, Nigeria would be the most suitable place on earth to live.
"Islam is a very simple religion. Allah says of our prophet (pbuh) that I only send you to be a source of mercy to mankind. So, let us reflect this compassion among ourselves and world as a whole. We have to portray the true teachings of Islam," he said.
On the killings of innocent people, Sheikh Gumi said anyone who engages in the act is doing that out of ignorance.
"Human souls have a sacred position with Allah. So, it is forbidden for anybody to kill anyone. It is only the law that can kill who deserved to be killed. Allah has told us the story of the two sons of Prophet Adam. Envy made one of them to kill his brother; therefore we should not allow that envy to overrule our sense of reasoning.
"Anybody who knows history would know that the first companions of our prophet (pbuh) that embarked on migration, they migrated to Christians' country. Therefore, living together in peace with Christians is not a new thing to Islam but we should respect each other and respect the rights of one another," Sheikh Gumi said.
He added; "We should also not sit down and allow some people to be killing other people. We should do all we can to stop that either by preaching or practical action. Whatever reason one may have, it would not justify the killing of other people. No matter how much you disagree with anyone, that disagreement cannot be a reason for killing him. Religious difference or any other thing cannot be a reason for killing. Whoever kills, his punishment is for him to be killed as well and if that didn't happen, the punishment of Allah awaits him.
"If there is any problem or crisis, people should stop blocking roads and be killing others who are not members of their religion. If you do that you are committing murder. Patient with one another is the best way out for all of us. It is wrong for people to take the law into their own hands. We should try to elect good people into political positions. It is unfortunate human souls in Nigeria have been made like flies' souls. If this situation continues, it means we are moving towards anarchy. It is better for us to live in peace with one another and it is better for the adherents of the two main religions to understand that now."
Earlier in the week, the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, the Most Rev. John Onaiyekan, visited the AlHabibiyya Mosque at Guzape where he called for greater inter-faith cooperation between Muslims and Christians to foster peace and unity in the country.
Onaiyekan who visited with a team of Catholic clerics for the breaking of fast with Muslims, told reporters that he was at the place of worship at the invitation of his friend, Imam Fuad Adeyemi.
"We have been talking a lot about building good relationships between Christians and Muslims in the country. But we have to go beyond talking and take certain good gestures to underline the fact that we believe what we are saying.
"I came along with my reverend father who is in charge of youths and the reverend sister leading our initiative on Muslim-Christian women; so we are very happy to be here," he said.
Adeyemi, who is the Director of Al-Habibiyyah Society, said it was time "peace, harmony and new relationships are established and sustained worldwide."