Lalong inaugurates 36-member peace council
Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong on Monday inaugurated a 36-member inter-religious council to help foster peaceful co-existence in the state.
He further directed the Council to support the Peace-building Agency in finding a lasting solution to renewed herders’-farmers’ clashes in some parts of the state such as Bassa where there were reports that people have been killed in attacks and reprisals.
“I have already directed security agencies to go after those behind the acts and bring them to justice. This must stop,” he said.
While inaugurating the 36-member committee in Jos, Lalong urged them to promote the culture of inter-faith dialogue as a viable mechanism for peaceful co-existence, understanding and religious tolerance in Plateau State.
He said: “You must work with different faith communities and other organisations that work across faith lines to expand respect for religious pluralism and freedom of religion or belief in Plateau State.
“I call on you all to offer advisory services to the state government on matters of religious practice and to deliberate on reported cases of religious conflicts and proffer solutions for government’s intervention.
“We must work closely with relevant agencies of government to improve social cohesion as well as promote the agenda of peace on the Plateau through healing, forgiveness and reconciliation.
“As a state emerging from the ashes of violence, our Rescue Administration decided to set aside February 7 of every year as Forgiveness Day. This day reminds us of the need to imbibe and promote the culture of forgiveness as enunciated in the Holy Books. The cardinal objective of this day is to achieve enduring peace and harmony as opposed to hatred, bitterness, resentment and vengeance which only leads to a vicious cycle of violence.
“When we first commemorated the Forgiveness Day in 2019, I submitted that if we imbibed forgiveness, it will eclipse and bury all the wrongs of the past and move us to new dawn by restoring confidence in our future and ensuring that generations unborn do not repeat our mistakes.
“Let me reiterate that the idea behind the Forgiveness Day is for us to reflect on where we have been; the human tragedy that befell us; the need to appreciate our present situation; and our resolve to craft the kind of peaceful and secure society we desire.”
Lalong further said his administration understands that many of the people have been hurt and could have also caused pain for others. Many cannot seem to erase the hurt from their mental hard drive and continue to harbour bitterness, resentment, and anger.
“The choice before us is to either continue in our anger thus spending the rest of our lives in pain and bitterness, or we can choose to be released, healed, and be set free. That is where forgiveness becomes inevitable,” he said.
Lalong further said as a governor who wishes to be remembered as a peacemaker long after I leave office, the approach of my administration is to pursue Restorative Justice side by side with Retributive Justice in order to right the wrongs of the past.
“In this regard, we have taken several policy steps to mitigate the risk of a return to violent conflicts as well as tackle the growing wave of criminality in our state. Apart from setting up the Plateau State Peace Building Agency, we have strengthened Operation Rainbow and reviewed the criminal administration law.
“Despite the efforts and modest successes recorded at stemming the tide of ethno-religious violence, Plateau State is still in dire need of healing. “Our people have remained somewhat divided along ethno-religious or tribal lines due largely to the experiences of yesteryear. Yet, we have a golden opportunity to open a new leaf by consolidating on the gains of our efforts within the last six years.
“While we cannot claim that all issues in the heart of the crises have been resolved, we have in our hands the tools that can help midwife the rebirth of a new and united Plateau that is at peace with itself and neighbours.
“The stakes are quite high and the need to work in concert through the forging of robust alliances has never been this urgent. The age-old maxim says we either work together as a united front to win or we perish as fools. We have no reason to choose anything below peace.
“That is why nowadays we are inaugurating the reconstituted Plateau State Inter-religious Council, a body made up of highly respected religious leaders and experts in the field of conflict mediation and peacebuilding.
“The inauguration of this non-partisan body is a further demonstration of our administration’s commitment to repairing the broken social fabric of our society through the provision of a structured platform for religious, community, youth and women leaders to play active roles in fostering mutual understanding and co-operation among citizens regardless of ethnic and religious differences.
“It is expected that working closely with the Plateau State Peace Building Agency, the State Inter-religious Council will critically think through issues and build consensus on challenges that threaten freedom, tolerance and peace.
“The council will adopt a flexible and confidential format in which even controversial issues can be discussed; assumptions tested and ideas generated. Through joint analysis and structured inter-faith dialogue, voices from divergent communities can come up with new ideas and approaches that will help enhance resilience and social cohesion.”
He further said: “The Inter-religious Council will also play an Advisory Role to the Peace Building Agency while the Coordinating Secretariat is to be headed by the Director-General of the Agency Mr Joseph Lengmang alongside Auwal Abdullahi, Rev. Gideon Para, Rev. Fr. Blaise Agwom and Ahmed Muhammad Nazif.
“My expectation is that through the work of this council, our citizens would learn to listen to one another, understand one another, forgive, tolerate and above all, have respect for the diverse religious and social beliefs that exist in our society.”
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