The Executive Director, COFP, Rev. Sister Agatha Chikelue, disclosed this at the graduation ceremony of the fellows in Abuja on Friday. Chikelue said the purpose of the fellowship programme was to effectively empower religious men, women and youths with skills to dialogue, negotiate and mediate on issues. She said that the fellowship programme, which started in July 2018, had been able to provide informative, interactive, educational and networking opportunities for the participants drawn from different backgrounds in Nigeria. ‘’The advancing of peace efforts, through this process, will build the capacities of grassroots community leaders as critical actors and peace agents in conflict transformation, building and enhancing social cohesion, integration and peace in our communities. “Building lasting peace requires committed leaders and actors like them who would share more openly, lessons learnt and jointly work for peace in their various communities. “The time has come to translate dialogue into practical actions and that is what it means to be a COFP fellow.” She said the fellows comprised of 18 Christians and 17 Muslims drawn from the six-geopolitical zones, adding that they include 22 males and 13 females from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds in Nigeria. She said the fellowship programme, sponsored by GHR foundation, based in the US was divided into three modules, adding that each fellow carried out pet project in their various communities. Onaiyekan,in his contribution, called on religious leaders to create religious space, shun differences and embrace common grounds for peace to thrive in the country. “We should learn to live with our differences and even go a step further in discovering and celebrating our many common grounds of shared values and convictions. “The pursuit of the respect of inalienable fundamental human rights should not be left to secular humanists alone to champion. “These rights are best protected and promoted when firmly anchored on God by religious leaders and all men and women of faith.” The Deputy German Ambassador, Ms Regina Hess, said the need to engage religious leaders on issues affecting the people, especially in conflict resolution, could not be overemphasised. According to her, it is only logical to ask for the help of religious leaders to get involved in conflict resolution because of the spate of religious conflict in Nigeria. She said the best basis of peace was to overcome prejudices, have a better understanding of each other and how to resolve conflicts. Hess urged the fellows to go out and help peace prevail better in Nigeria. Mary Dalsin, Programme Associate, GHR foundation, stressed the need for the involvement of religious leaders in conflict resolution as she urged the fellows to continue to connect and help in peace building. Responding on behalf of the fellows, Dr Saheed Timehin, thanked the Foundation for the opportunity to participate in the programme for being messengers of peace. Timehin Ahmadiyya, a lecturer, Department of foreign languages, Lagos State University, said “we thank the Cardinal and the foundation for being messengers of peace. “The Cardinal has shown that despite religious differences, the only true religion is peace. NAN reports that highpoint at the occasion was the award of certificate in “Interreligious Dialogue and Mediation 35 fellows by the Veritas University of Nigeria, Abuja. The fellows came from Christian and Islamic religious groups and sects in Nigeria: Sunni, Shiite, NASFAT, Qadiriyyah Sufi, Ahmadiyya, Izala, Miyetty Allah and Dariqst Tijjania, Catholic, ECWA, Baptist Assemblies, COCIN, Lutheran and Anglican.(NAN)]]>

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