National Muslim & Christian Youth Summit, Themed “Towards A Peaceful & Harmonious Nigeria”
REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, THE VICE PRESIDENT, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA AT THE NATIONAL MUSLIM AND CHRISTIAN YOUTHS SUMMIT THEMED “TOWARDS PEACEFUL AND HARMONIOUS NIGERIA: THE ROLE OF CHRISTIAN & MUSLIM YOUTHS” ON THURSDAY AUGUST 29, 2019
It is a great pleasure to have been invited to join you at this National Muslim and Christian Youths Summit and I bring you warm greetings from His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari.
On the 30th of May this year, I was privileged to receive in audience Imam Abubakar Abdullahi, the 83 year old Muslim cleric who saved the lives of 262 Christians. On the 20th of June 2018, Christians in their village Nghar Yelwa in Plateau State were attacked by a horde of Fulanis who had attacked other villages and had killed several Berom farmers who were mainly Christians.
As Imam Abdullahi was finishing midday prayers, he and his congregation heard gunshots and went outside to see members of the town’s Christian community running helter-skelter.
Instinctively, the Imam ushered 262 Christians into the mosque and some into his home next to the mosque. The Imam then went outside to confront the gunmen, he refused to allow them to enter, pleading with them to spare the Christians inside the mosque and his home. When the assailants were adamant he told them that they would have to kill him first if they were going to kill the Christians that he had given refuge.
They eventually left without killing any of the Christians in the mosque or in his home. Imam Abdullahi’s selflessness and sacrifice saved the lives of hundreds of people of a faith and belief different from his own. Imam Abdullahi not only refused to give up the Christians he had given refuge; he even offered his life in exchange for theirs.
His moral courage is rooted in a profound recognition of our common humanity. His compassion, empathy and selflessness are an example to us as people of faith.
Jesus Christ told a story somewhat similar to this. Someone had asked Him the question: how he could attain eternal life. And Jesus replied by asking him what the law said on the matter. The man responded that the law says “love God with all your heart and mind and love your neighbour as yourself.” Jesus then said, good, you go and obey that law and you will live. However, the man asked him but who is my neighbour.
Jesus then told him a parable which later came to be known as the parable of the Good Samaritan. It is the story of a man who was traveling between Jerusalem and Jericho, and was attacked by thieves. His property was stolen and he was beaten almost to death. As he lay on the road a certain priest came by, saw him and walked by on the other side of the road. So also a Levite (a scholar on religion) came by and walked by on the other side of the road. Then a Samaritan came by, (Samaritans were regarded as unbelievers by the Jews ) stopped and took care of the injured man, putting him on his horse and then took him to an Inn, leaving the Inn-keeper money to take care of him until he returned. Jesus then asked the man: of the three men who saw the injured man who was his neighbour? The man answered that it was the Samaritan who had compassion on him. Jesus then said to him go and do likewise. Jesus said go and behave with love and compassion in the way that the Samaritan did.
Our world and our nation, and all men and women of all faiths and religions need to learn from the simple but deeply profound actions of the Good Samaritan and the Chief Imam. Both of them showed great love and compassion.
They were not concerned about the race or religion of those whose lives they saved. All that mattered was that they were flesh and blood like themselves. They were simply ready to make any kind of sacrifice for another human being.
We are at a historic juncture in the existence of our nation. Here and there are religious and tribal tensions. Many are beating the drums of tribal and religious superiority. Some even seeking to divide the nation into ethnic zones.
Yet our constitution speaks in the clearest and highest terms of our national commitment to equality of all Nigerians regardless of ethnicity, religion or status. It speaks of the imperative of all individuals and governments to respect the rights and dignity of every Nigerian. Every free nation today has these or similar ideals.
But constitutional declarations mean nothing unless there are men and women ready to make the personal sacrifices to bridge the gap between rhetoric and constitutional ideals. Such men and women are not usually very many. They are few, but the profundity of their actions invariably transform communities and nations as they bend the arc of history in the direction of unity, peace and progress.
I am pleased to see that you, the members of the Community and Youth Development and the Christian Youth for Peace and Development Initiative have committed yourselves through the years to these noblest causes. Some describe young men and women as the leaders of tomorrow, but I agree with the last speaker who said they are leaders of today because the future is already here, and you are the leaders of today.
That leadership role extends to being champions of peace, unity and understanding among different tribes and faiths today, and the future belongs to you. The greatness of that future will depend on the sacrifices you are prepared to make for the unity and peace of our nation.
Thankfully, you have started well. Your associations have continued to build bridges, to fight discrimination and encourage love and unity, with the full knowledge that the great conflict of our time is not between Islam and Christianity but between extremism and human solidarity, between the forces of hate and intolerance and those of empathy and peace.
So, on behalf of the President and the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I commend you and urge you to do even more. In the end, your labour of love for mankind will bear plenteous fruits.
I challenge you to live up to the tenets of your faith and to live up to the best values of humankind.
It is, therefore, my very special pleasure to declare this summit, (themed “Towards Peaceful and Harmonious Nigeria: The Role of Christian & Muslim Youths”) open.
Thank you and God bless you.