By Gabriel Ewepu
ABUJA — WOMEN under the auspices of Virtuous Women and Youth Empowerment Initiative, VWYEI, have called on religious leaders across the country to shun and avoid hate speech in their sermons.
The National Coordinator, VWYEI, Esther Akwo, made the call as she joined leaders and Nigerians who urged Muslims and other religious faithful to embrace peace and unity in this trying time the country finds herself in, as part of their message during the Eid El Kabir celebration.
Akwo who has been on the crusade against hate speech and violence in the country said religious leaders are not to be part of people promoting hate speech from their pulpits but instead should condemn it in all ramifications in the sermons. She said: “Nigeria is a highly religious country; everybody in this country either goes to Church, Mosque or even belong to other religions. These religions have spiritual leaders and they have different names for them.
“Unfortunately, some of these big religious leaders have been promoting hate speech through their sermons. They do not consider the position and influence they wield when talking to their members, especially about national issues that are highly sensitive. As Muslims across the country join other Muslims across the world to celebrate Eid El Kabir, which is about selflessness, sacrifice and love, we in Virtuous Women and Youth Empowerment Initiative, VWYEI, appeal to religious leaders in the country to please avoid any form of hate speech in their sermons.
Peddling hate on social media
“We are making this call because some Nigerians who peddle hate on social media and Facebook got their inspiration from some of their spiritual leaders who have succeeded in brainwashing them and instigating them to spread their evil around to further poison unsuspecting members of the public.”
She also urged the government to enforce its declaration on those who promote hate speech by treating them as terrorists and not to be selective in bringing the culprits to book. “We commend the stance of the Federal Government on treating anybody who promotes hate speech as terrorists but we want the government to also match their word with action.
“The enforcement should cut across board and not be selective because this would restore the confidence of the people in this crusade. We also want it to be handled with seriousness”, she added.