The Ecumenism/Inter-Religious Dialogue Commission of the Catholic Diocese of Oyo in Oyo State of Nigeria in conjunction with the Missionaries of Africa Commission for Justice, Peace, Integrity of Creation, Encounter and Dialogue (JPIC-ED), held the annual seminar on Inter-Religious Dialogue for the year 2021. This seminar brings together different religious leaders with their faithful to deliberate on current issues affecting the peaceful co-existence in various communities. The seminar was entitled: Need for Peaceful Coexistence: Combatting Fake News, Hate Speech and Prejudices. The program was attended by different religious groupings, among them: Muslims, Christians, and African Traditional Worshippers. Also present at the seminar were lawyers from civil society organizations and members of the Nigeria Police Force. The program started with an opening prayer by the chairman of the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, Ustaz Dapo Yusuf. Rev.
Fr Joseph Ogundipe, Director of the Diocesan Commission for Inter-Religious Dialogue, in his opening speech highlighted the purpose of our coming together. He went on to state that with the outrageous abuse of social media today, people are being divided along religious lines and this has affected the peaceful co-existence that our local communities used to enjoy.
Rev. Fr Robert Chipumbu M.Afr, from the Commission of Justice, Peace, Integrity of Creation, Encounter and Dialogue (JPIC-ED), talked about the numerous contributions and interventions that the Society of Missionaries of Africa has done and is doing in promoting inter-religious dialogue among religions and people of different cultures. Then the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Oyo officially welcomed all participants to the seminar. In his address, the bishop thanked God for the relative peace and calm for that part of the country. He also thanked the security agencies and all people of good will who made it possible and prayed for peace and harmony for the other parts of the country in security challenges. The bishop reminded the participants that at many times religion has been accused of being one of the causes of division and hatred, and that this time around we should change the image of religion. The abuse of social media by religious groups in promoting hatred and division through fake news, hate speech and prejudices should be condemned and be stopped.
The seminar saw Muslims, Christians and African Traditional Worshippers enter into group discussion on the seminar topic in which different experiences were shared and contributions made on how to better live together as people from different religious affiliations. At the end of the seminar a communique was issued to the media houses.
Robert Chipumbu, Ibadan, Nigeria