By Ere-ebi Agedah
Religious and Traditional leaders in Nigeria have been urged to assist in creating awareness for inclusion, representation and protection of Person With Disability, PWDs across the country.
This call is coming from the Executive Secretary National commission for Persons With Disabilities, Mr James Lalu who spoke on Wednesday at a one-day National Disability Summit organized by the commission in Abuja.
He appealed to stakeholders, particularly religious and traditional organisations to collaborate with the commission in bringing an atmosphere to give people living with disabilities a meaningful life.
According to Lalu the summit seeks to raise the consciousness of religious and traditional leaders in Nigeria to use their platforms and speak to their subjects and followers to treat PWD with dignity and encourage them to be part of discourse to develop the country, as well as avoiding harmful practices against them.
In a goodwill message the President Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN Bishop Daniel Okoh advocated for persons living with disabilities be mainstreamed in churches and mosques and also be assigned duties to carry out during worships.
He further appealed to the society not to go weary in helping persons living with disabilities in achieving their vision through deliberate inclusivity.
Also speaking the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, affirmed his availability to work with the commission to actualise a more inclusive society for PWDs.
In her remarks, the Country Advocacy Coordinator of Sight Savers, Esther Bature said the implementation of policies to enhance the inclusion and protection of people with disabilities is key.
She said the choice of religious and traditional rulers for the summit is to be able to drive the needed credibility in the minds of those who receive the message on inclusion of people with disabilities.
“You will agree with me that we all worship somewhere, if not in the church, it’s the mosque, and we listen to our religious and traditional rulers a lot. So we want them to assist us in addressing the issue of stigma and discrimination.
“We also need their assistance in issues around using persons with disabilities for ritual purposes. People with albinism and hunchback are usually soft targets for ritual purposes. But when they hear from the pulpit or the mosque, they will know these are just misconceptions. It will create awareness that it is time to move away from those ancient practices and embrace inclusion” she said.
The National Summit is the second in the series by the Commission on fostering Disability Inclusion and it was declared open by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo represented by the State House Chaplain, Pastor Joseph Malomo.