By Bukar Bolori
Members of Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) Parliament have expressed deep concern regarding the unequal treatment of religious matters in political decisions by government of various countries in West Africa.
The Parliament therefore called on political and religious leaders from member states to ensure equity in the treatment of different religions existing within the community, as part of the efforts at addressing religious intolerance in the sub-region.Besides, the parliamentarians also called for the establishment of the ECOWAS Communication charter on religious tolerance.
This came against the backdrop of religious crisis in the sub-region in recent times, which has led to killings and wanton destruction of properties, and gradually turning the Sahel into a theatre of war with the activities of various religious terrorist groups.
The concern was raised at the end of ECOWAS Parliament delocalised meeting of joint committees on Education, Science and Culture; Health ;Telecommunications and Information Technology , in Praia, Capital of Cape Verde, with the theme, “Religious Tolerance and Harmony: Essential factors for development, peace and stability in ECOWAS region”.
The draft report of the meeting which had many presentations from scholars and religious leaders was read by the meeting co-Chairman, Hon. Aime Assine, from Senegal.
The meeting noted that the challenges raised with regards to religious tolerance and harmony in the community space and therefore insisted on the need for them (Parliamentarians) to become more involved in the national education policy programmes of their states.
The meeting harped on the need for deliberate actions and funding for programmes and activities that would promote religious tolerance among the people in the community.
The meeting also stressed the need for ECOWAS parliamentarians to undertake sensitization, education and information activities for the benefit of the populations, particularly in rural areas.
The meeting further called on the parliamentarians to make legislative proposals or vote on bills which intend to promote a legislative framework relating to religious tolerance and harmony.
Other recommendations put forward by the meeting include the promotion of structures that will ensure enforcement of laws and political will for religious tolerance amongst other far fetching recommendations put forward at the end of the meeting.
Member states were also charged to “Include in their curricular in schools, from primary to universities religious tolerance teachings in order to foster the culture of religious tolerance.
“Create a legal and formative framework that favours liberties to ensure religious tolerance culture in ECOWAS.
“Allocate massive government budget on religious General Education in ECOWAS centred on cultural and religious diversity for tolerance culture.
“Promote an ECOWAS-wide campaign sensitization for the promotion of tolerance culture.”
In his vote of thanks, a member of the joint Committee, Hon. Usman Idi Ango, from Niger Republic expressed gratitude to the Speaker of the National Assembly of Cape Verde, Rt. Hon Ausrelino Tavares and the Cape Verdeans Delegation for the successful hosting of the event.
He also appreciated the Speaker of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Sidie Mohamed Tunis for his efficiency and commitment in executing his Mandate, support to the regional integration and his immense contribution to peace, democracy and solidarity in the ECOWAS region.