THE African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL) on Thursday organized a round table to dialogue on the need for peace among diverse religious groups, as well as educate media personnel on proper ways for giving out information to avoid inciting crisis in the country.
In his welcome address, the Coordinator, AFRICMIL, Chido Onumah described the role of religion in the society as pertinent and having the power to destabilize the peace of a nation.
“Nigeria society is greatly polarized along with a variety of fault lines; none threatens the peace and stability of the country more than religion.
“Divisive and hate speeches are regularly delivered by preachers and the faithful feel no restraint in physically carrying out the demands of these messages which often leads to violence,” he said.
Onumah noted that such a situation has even escalated with the evolvement of technology where social media platforms are constantly used as a conduit of propagating fake news and hate messages targeting other religions and cultures.
Citing examples of religious-incited crises in Nigeria, he advocated less regulatory measures by the government and, more reorientation of religious leaders to enable them to critically analyze media information hence making an informed judgment.
“It is, therefore, critical that religious leaders, who play teaching and guiding role in their communities, are able to critically analyze media content, understand risks and opportunities associated with the internet, and become responsible, informed consumers and transmitters of information and opinion”
Also speaking, the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Kaduna State, John Hayab, emphasized the role of the media in inspiring peace or inciting crisis in a country.
While calling for peace among the two major religious groups in Nigeria, he noted that followers of religious faith must learn to respect the values of other’s religion and stop the endless show of religious supremacy.
Describing hate speech as relative, he admonished media personnel to separate their biases from their mandate of reporting factual, yet objective and balanced information without the intentional use of words to incite hate in the society.
On his part, the chief Imam Juma’at mosque, Lafia, Ali Mohammed put the blame of religious crisis in Nigeria on religious followers and journalists.
He called for peace among the two prominent religious groups and the intervention of the media in closing the gaps among religious groups.
He urged the media to be non-partisan in their duties and pleaded for a total clampdown on stories or the use of images or illustrations that may instigate hate or chaos.
Also, David Akoji, Special Assistant to the Director-General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) said religion is supposed to strengthen the nation’s bond, and not do otherwise.
He said the agency would collaborate with AFRICMIL in its project to address some of the challenges that have distorted the religious unity of the country as well as ensure it produces an encompassing impact.
A highlight of the event was the official launch of a project titled: “Advancing Peace and Inter-religious Dialogue” in Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa and Plateau States, geared at creating synergy and understanding among religious leaders.
Also, the project would focus on empowering religious leaders to navigate the conventional and the new media and address misinformation about their own beliefs or that of religious communities.