Religion is a fundamental part of Nigerian society with about 98% of the population believing in one religion or the other. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, when social interactions had to take different forms due to the various phases of lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus, religious institutions were one of the most affected.
However, there was defiance from some quarters as some religious individuals and organizations even claimed the virus was fake. Many religious adherents held on to wrong notions and misinformation about the virus and failed to adhere to the laid down guidelines of the government. The disbelief in COVID-19 among some religious institutions had strong implications on the efforts to prevent the spread of the virus.
As Nigeria embarks on rebuilding in Post-COVID-19, and in response to the possibility of the current second wave of the pandemic in some parts of Europe getting to the country, ensuring that religious institutions are on board with the prevention mechanisms of Covid-19 is crucial.
Against this backdrop, Brain Builders Youth Development Initiative (BBYDI), with support from the International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID), has designed a project to engender interfaith awareness on the prevention of COVID-19 in places of worship in North Central Nigeria (including Kogi, Kwara, Niger, Nasarawa, Benue, Plateau State and the Federal Capital Territory).
We believe that orientating religious leaders on the nature of the virus, ways to prevent it at places of worship, preventing the spread of false information, and promoting positive interfaith relations and peaceful coexistence in the process is very crucial to our national development.
The project focuses on training in the nature, causes and prevention of the virus, as well as interfaith dialogue sessions.
Therefore, the selected religious leaders who are expected to use the knowledge gained from this training to educate their congregation will also improve positive inter-religious interactions in North Central Nigeria and prevent possible outbreaks of violence. Participants will also include policy makers to ensure that the knowledge gained is reflected in public health policies, especially those related to infectious diseases.
At the end of the training, religious leaders and their followers will be equipped with the correct information about the Coronavirus and the ways to prevent its spread. Reports containing recommendations to all public health stakeholders and policy actors will be shared widely across the country. This will promote trust, public health and ensure that places of worship are safe for adherents.