IDFP sensitises religious leaders, others on safety of COVID-19 vaccine

NONE of the known major religions in the world is against vaccination and taking the COVID-19 vaccine, observing physical distancing, wearing face mask and protecting yourself in your place of worship and community; they are acts that God approves of, the Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Peace (IDFP) has emphasised.

Alhaji Ishaq Kunle Sanni, the co-chairman of the IDFP, a national independent interfaith dialogue platform comprising top Christian and Islamic leaders across all sections of Nigeria, made this declaration on Tuesday in Ibadan, Oyo State, during a programme organised to sensitise religious leaders on the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine and the imperativeness of taking the vaccine for enhanced protection against the pandemic.

The programme, which was held at the University of Ibadan and was attended by traditional rulers as well as representatives of women and youth groups, was organised by the IDFP, in collaboration with the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID), also known as the International Dialogue Centre.

The gathering was graced by the deputy governor of Oyo State, Mr Rauf Olaniyan.

Alhaji Sanni said the purpose of the gathering was to further sensitise the people about the issue of the COVID-19 vaccine and disabuse them of the many conspiracy theories about the vaccine.

According to him, a lot of people have been misled into thinking that there is a western conspiracy to kill, maim or destroy so many black people.

He said: “The government has done a lot, so we think we should try and add our own voice as people of faith. People seem to believe their faith leaders and whatever they tell them and that is the reason why this programme was organised.

“By virtue of having the religious leaders and traditional rulers here, we believe that the knowledge of the fact that the vaccine is efficacious and it was not meant to kill anybody would go down to the grassroots.

“And, to a large extent, I think we are going to succeed in getting a lot of people on board, and a lot of the misconceptions and fears would have been allayed by virtue of this gathering.

“Our hope is that the leaders and representatives of the various religious organisations would go back to their mosques, churches and centres and educate the people so that whenever the vaccine is made available, we would get virtually everybody to queue and get the vaccine.”

The chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Apostle Joshua Akinyemiju, commended the decision of the IDFP to further sensitise Nigerians to the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine.

He urged the people to complement the efforts of the government to achieve a COVID-19-free society by continuously abiding by the safety protocols and doing things that could keep them, their families and relations alive and promote their well-being.

“God does not want us to lose the lives He has given us as a result of our omission or commission, so we should do everything that is necessary to stay alive.

“From what we have learnt here, it is good for us to have trust in our leaders and believe that they cannot do anything that will jeopardise our health and safety. They are procuring the vaccine for us so that we can stay alive and well and defeat COVID-19,” he noted.

The Oyo State deputy governor, Mr Rauf Olaniyan warned Nigerians who have taken the COVID-19 vaccine against jettisoning the safety protocols so as to avoid being re-infected by the disease.

Mr Olaniyan noted that although the outbreak of coronavirus was a sad development, the pandemic had brought about stronger ties among the adherents of the two major religions in the country, Islam and Christianity.

“COVID-19 may have come as a disaster but it is uniting us together. The more we are together, the more chance we stand to battle COVID-19. Whether you have taken vaccine or not, COVID-19 protocols should continue to be observed,” he said.

The deputy governor urged them to not only leverage on the newfound unity to fight defeat COVID-19 but also to strengthen the fragile peace in the country.

The Executive Secretary of the Oyo State Primary Health Care Board, Dr Muyideen Olatunji, who made a presentation on the theme of the programme, said people had nothing to be concerned about regarding the vaccine.

Dr Olatunji described conspiracy theories about the safety of the vaccine, especially those doing the rounds on the social media, as unfounded.

He disclosed that 90,000 people had so far received the COVID-19 vaccine in Oyo State.

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