Religious Leaders under the platform of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the Owerri West and Ehime Mbano Council Areas of Imo State have expressed their readiness to partner with UNICEF in their quest to eliminate the obnoxious practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) across the state.
The religious Leaders made this position known in a one-day Joint Advocacy dialogue with the National Orientation Agency with the support of UNICEF and the United Nations Population (UNFPA), CAN chairmen in the two local government areas, Rev. Jude Okenwa of the Strong Towers Believers Church (Owerri West LGA) and his Ehime Mbano council counterpart, Apostle Isaiah Onyekauwa, General Overseer of Voice Of the Christ Church all expressed displeasure on the practice of FGM in the two communities.
According to them, our eyes are now open and as religious Leaders, we are aware of the dangers inherent with FGM and we are determined to sanction any member of our churches found guilty of these ugly practice.
The clerics expressed astonishment at the continuous practice of FGM by some Christians, despite the continued global wind of evangelism and civilization and denounced this as “unbiblical, inhuman and barbaric”, pledging that they would henceforth place put an eye on all so as to monitor the activities in respect of these practice.
They also unfolded measures to end the FGM among their faithful such as conferences, counseling, dialogue coupled with preaching of sermons in their various churches. The religious group also commended UNICEF for her relentless efforts to end the scourge of FGM which they described as evil and inhuman.
Speaking, the Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF Nigeria Office, Enugu, Victor Atuchukwu, charged religious leaders, to be in the Vanguard of social change, promotion of social welfare and to fight for equality, peace and human dignity.
Atuchukwu said that UNICEF in collaboration with UNFPA and NOA would continue to explore avenue to eradicate the evil practice, noting that the church is at a vantage position to assist in this regard. According to him, FGM is a callous practice, obnoxious and offensive to humanity and reduces the dignity of womanhood.
In his contribution, on efforts to end the scourge in the country, State Director of NOA, Victus Ekeocha, stressed that as a cultural practice with devastating medical, social, emotional, legal and economic repercussions for girls and women, FGM is illegal and violates the rights of women hence it should be abandoned.
The NOA Director who spoke on FGM and religion noted that one of the most common misconceptions is the connection of FGM with Christianity stressing that the former violates the basic principles of Christianity saying, “misconception and misinterpretation of the scriptures needs to be clarified because most of the practitioners may not personally check the authenticity of what they have heard about the scripture”.
Ekeocha reminded the religious leaders that as vanguards of social changes, promotion of social welfare and fight for equity, peace and human dignity, they have the responsibility and mandate to protect and to promote the lives of their followers.
“Religious leaders have moral authority within their communities. They have the respect and acceptance of their community and in some cases, they are more powerful than secular leaders and this situation gives them an additional opportunity, power and responsibility to help in the fight against harmful traditional practices which are not sanctioned by the scriptures”.
Monsignor Jeremiah Uchechukwu Ofoegbu of the St. Charles Parish Umunumo Ehime Mbano speaking said, “the workshop is timely and we are joining leaders on the war against FGM and the awareness is very encouraging”.
The priest highlighted that the workshop would go a long to add value to and assist the church in preaching to the congregation against the evil inherent in the practice of FGM and promise that the would not disappoint UNICEF and NOA in this regard