BY JOY YESUFU, Abuja
The coordinator of African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRCMIL) Dr. Chido Onumah has called on religious leaders to as a matter of urgency respond to groups and or individuals that are using the internet to promote stereotypes, preach religious extremism and promote violence.
Onumah, who was represented by AFRICMIL senior program officer, Mr. Godwin Onyeacholem stated this at a town hall meeting on inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue and launch of training manual for religious leaders on promoting peace in the age of social media in Keffi, Nassarawa state.
He said religious and ethnic stereotyping as well as hate speeches is on the increase with dire consequences on national unity and nation building adding that there are genuine fears of religious conflict breaking out in Nigeria which could threaten not just the peace but the unity of this country if not quickly checked.
He said “it is therefore critical that religious leaders who play teaching and guiding roles in their communities are able to critically analyse information and news media content, understand risk and opportunities associated with the internet, become responsible and informed consumers and transmitters of information opinion.
“As person whose opinion matter the most, getting religious leaders thoroughly sensitized about the dangers of hate speech and spreading of fake news could lead to a significant reduction in violence and hate emanating from such unsubstantiated information. Many of these leaders are regularly accused of being responsible for some of the divisive messages on social media platforms that result I violence between the adherents of the two major religions.
He further said the manual seeks to help users understand the effect of fake news, hate speech, propaganda, online radicalization and the importance of media information literacy in promoting interreligious and inter-cultural dialogue and harmony.
In his address, representative of the Muslim community, Imam Muhammad Ali said dialogue is one of the best way to resolve conflict adding that religion is a thing of the mind.
He also Allah urged his followers not to force others into Islam appealing to both religions to be subtle in their speeches.
Representative of the Christian community, Rev. Ogbonna Akuma blamed politicians who introduced the method of divide and rule for most of the religious crisis in parts of the country.
He said the nation needs equal rights and justice for peace to reign saying that it is when there is peace that people can go about their normal businesses.