The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto State, Most Rev. Matthew Kukah, has called for calm and peaceful negotiation over the recent clash between the Nigerian Army and members of the Shi’ite Islamic Movement of Nigeria in Zaria.

The clergy said there was need for the aggrieved members to consider dialogue rather than increase tensions amidst current insecurity bedeviling the nation.

Kukah made the call at an inaugural forum on Role of Islam and Christianity in Social Transformation in sub-Saharan Africa.

The event was organized by the Kukah Centre in partnership with the Department of Intercultural Theology, Depaul University, USA.

He stated that since the country runs a democratic system of government, agitations against the government should be presented responsibly to avoid escalation into crisis.

Kukah said: “I think what we can do is to condole with the bereaved and also to let Nigerians know that we are in a democracy, people have the right to make their claims but they must make them responsibly.

“There are processes and channels and I think that these are challenging times for our nation nobody needs all this crisis, those who are agitating have made their point it is now time for us to now develop the capacity for negotiation but government won’t be able to solve the problems if everyone is on the street agitating.”

Members of the Islamic movement clashed with a convoy of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, last Saturday in Zaria, leading to the death of Shi’ite members. The crisis had since generated reactions from local and international communities especially Iran. About three persons were declared dead aftermath of a protest when the shi’ite leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky was arrested.

Speaking on the forum, the clergy said it was targeted to provide a framework for policy makers and other political stakeholders to help address the challenges posed by religion differences in Africa.

He said the panelists, who were drawn from different countries and institutions of higher learning, are scholars drawn from both the Christians and Muslims community.

Kukah noted that various crimes have been committed on the premise of religious difference stressing that, “Religion is gradually being held responsible for most of the crisis that is going on in the continent.”

“We can see from the calibre of scholars all of which are professors, across the country. What we try to do is draw scholars from different backgrounds, Christians and Muslims to deliberate on the future of religion most specifically Christianity and Islam in sub-saharan Africa to deal with the fact that religion is becoming a problem.

“Religion is gradually being held responsible for most of the crisis that is going on in the continent. Our idea is to see whether we can help provide a blueprint that can help policy makers to figure out the kind of things that can help us very coherently use religion for the growth and development and peace of the country.

“One of the things we have figured out here is that violence is violence. There is more violence caused by the failure of economics activities than violence ascribed to religion. Neither Islam nor Christianity are the major factors for violence. It is quite possible that people stand on religion to make moral claims but those things will be sustainable where there is an intensity of grievances that other people have.” he added.

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