Religious Conflicts in Nigeria: Issues and Solutions
Aims and objectives
It is of absolute necessity to note that Nigeria is a country of multi-ethnic groups and built on religious pluralism.
This research work mainly aims at determining the solution to religious bigotry which is a mechanism for violence, conflict and crises. It also aim at explaining what religious conflict is and also enable various adherents of various religions to see the similarities as well as the differences between their faith, enabling them to see that no religion is great or better than the other.
This chapter shall review the works of various writers who have written regarding to the subject matter. The review shall come from the area of what religion is, how it connects to religious and the connection between religion, violence, crises and conflict. It shall further review religions conflict in Nigeria.
The purpose of this review is to establish all written on the subject matter and to significantly add to the body of knowledge and to re-appraise and critically analyze all written and if not all, but majorly, the materials gotten during the research.
Although, religion is a wide phenomenon, it is multi-dimensional since practices differ from each other especially since it is a human phenomenon. However, people have been able to rigorously explain it such that according to White Head:
Religion is the vision of something which stands beyond, behind and within the passing flux of immediate things: something which is real and yet waiting to be realized; something which is remote possibility, and yet the greatest of present fact; something that gives meaning to all that passes, and yet eludes apprehension.1
However, this definition differs from the psychologist perspectives, although it explains religion as a thing which is transcendental in nature. The definition connects the act of religion to the spiritual as it mentions the notion of ‘vision’, and ‘beyond’. In other to make it more simple and less ambiguous, Blondel noted that, “… religion is the encounter of an individual with God; religion is based on the I-thou relationship; religion is the bridge between the supernatural and the natural”.2 This definition vividly and crystally explains religion as that which deals with God in the real realm and opposes the ambiguousity of white head. Furthermore, the definition definitely shows the relationship between a Christian and his God and also a Muslim creating two bridges which are God and man and showing that there is a relationship, this relationship is what we can call religion. The definition also gives a rational insight into a logical conclusion of the transcendental reality.
However, Religion goes beyond God and man relationship, it also involves man and man relationship as described by Emile Durkheim. Furthermore, God which is different from Schleiermacher’s description of the feeling of dependence3, which is not clear as dependence can mean various things, we can depend on human, we can depend on ourselves, and does it mean we are in the realm of religion? Therefore, it is ambiguous and not clear. However, all the definitions above are subjective and exclusively preserved to those who defined them, it does not connect what religion and conflict is or show the relationship between religion and conflict. How a man with a suicide bomb would walk into a mall with the aim of killing over 100 people for the sake of ALLAH. In an attempt to show the connection, although argument against it, Dawkins was of the view that,
The very word ‘religions’ is boardlerized to ‘communities’ as in ‘intercommunity warfare’. Iraq as a consequence of the Anglo-American invasion of 2003 degenerated into sectarian civil war between Sunni and Shia Muslims. Clearly a religious conflict-yet in the Independent of 20, may 2006 at the front-page headline and first leading article both described it as ‘ethnic cleansing’…4
However, what Dawkins tried to explain was that it is a connection between religion and conflict. But that has been able to affirm why people, especially Africans die for religion. Maybe what Mbiti and Idowu describe as notoriously and incurably religious should suffice. The connection also was noted by Owutu that;
Religion with its moral principle and values are expected to direct societies and the lives of its adherents. Christianity and Islam, the two adopted alien faiths in Nigeria, have from their entrant into this society made social welfare services… what is worrisome is the violence associated with this “proselytizing religions”5
As regards the notion of notoriously religious and African’s nature, sofka noted that, If this is true, then religion is a curse. If it is true that humans are religious by nature (Homo-religious) then we are cursed, and we Africans are more cursed because we are, as the scholar John Mbiti puts it “notoriously religious”.6 And it becomes more disturbing when one sees the brutality and destruction that still fakes place today in the name of religion in some parts of Africa. Series of high intensity conflicts in Nigeria are tagged ‘religious crises’ because they were directly or partly caused by religion.7
Sofka’s argument that religion is a curse is pure codswallop. religion’s main purpose is to bring about unity even in diversity, ‘religare’ (binding force). Furthermore, sofka’s position apart from disturbing is wholly and unreservedly wrong. Africans bring notoriously religious is not to be militant and violent. A true study of Mbiti’s work will show to us that he meant that religious plays a great and important role on the lives of Africans existence, but instead the spirit of communalism reigns supreme through the binding force of religion.
Dawkins further elucidated that; Imagine… a world with no religion. Imagine no suicide bombers, no 9/11, no 7/7, no crusades, no witch-hunts, no gunpowder plot, no Indian partition, no Israeli/platetinian wars, no serb/croat/Muslim massacres, no persecution of Jews as ‘Christ-killers; no Northern Ireland ‘troubles’, no ‘honor killings’, no shiny-suited bouttant-haired televangelists fleecing gullible people of their money (‘God wants you to give tell it hurts’). Imagine no Taliban to blow up ancient status…8
All the above are strictly the power, extra-ordinary power of what the belief in the life of people can do when religion is in place. Pargament also noted the uniqueness of religion and further shows the connection of what it is to be religious from what religion is, he elucidated that;
…what make religion unique, however, is its fouls on the sacred. Unlike other personal and social institutions, the religions world wraps its search for significance in higher powers; deities; intimacy; and the beliefs, experiences, rituals and institutions associated with these transcendent forces. People are called religious when the sacred is a part of their deepest values and when the sacred is involved in the way they build, maintain, and change these values…9
Nothing is clearer than the fact that Pargament explains the expression of the feeling of religion, this is nothing but the religious nature of man, it is these values, beliefs that enable an Islamist Jihadist to kill innumerable numbers for the belief that it is worth it. However, the uniqueness of religion has not been explicitly shown in pargments assertion but to complement , Onaiyekan is of the view that when religion is dragged into conflicts that have other causes , it has the … unfortunate consequence that the real force and positive power of religion to bring about peace and reconciliation are compromised , jeopardized and subvertes.10 this above, shows that religion can also at the same time contain positive power bringing about peace and not only violence. The exposition of Marx concerning religion as the “… sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people”11 is subjected to an age criticism. If during Marx’s age, the industrial revolution age, religion plays a crucial role in capturing the minds of the individuals cum masses, that doesn’t mean that every age is going to experience the same since change is constant. Even, if Marx was to be born in the religio-conflict age, there is a reasonable feeling that his idea would be similar to what we know to be happening in this age.
RELIGIOUS CONFLICTS IN NIGERIA
The Nigeria society is being threatened by various religious-ethnic clashes, insurgencies and crisis. Between 1999 till date, several people have been killed, others maimed just for what some calls ‘holy war’ or ‘jihad’. The outbreak of these religious conflict had not only limited the security of individuals nationwide but if has also restricted people from going to some particular places and states.
This chapter shall therefore in a nutshell explain what religious conflict is, the causes of religious in Nigeria and also explain alongside everything relating to such gruesome and horrible experience.
TOWARDS A SOLUTION
It is not surprising that religion is a two or double edged sword. As it can help to build so it can be used to destroy. Many nations economic and sociological experience has been due to the colossal and gruesome effect of the religious cum ethics violence they had. For Nigeria, the case is not different, however religious conflicts is not a problem except there is no solution, therefore, how can we find a solution to religious crises, conflicts and violence ?
This chapter shall therefore proffer solution (s) to what the previous chapter had analyzed, the religious conflicts in Nigeria.
SUMMARY, RECOMMENDATION AND CONCLUSION
Religion therefore implies to be the enemy of the country as conceived by some authorities because it tears apart human values and sanctity of human life, following from the above paragraphs and quotes, religion especially the Muslim religion, Islam has been seen as a source of religious conflict which Nigeria is still facing till date.
The important fact in that, religion encompasses every nook and crannies of man’s existence, even his essence, which necessarily has affected the political, social and economic spheres of the country. Politically, religious conflict is a channel through which violent opposition have been able to open up their hatred o each other but this hatred has brought about rancorous experience for the individuals and society at large. Although, culturally, the pluralistic nature of Nigeria’s federalism, along with its practice, allows for a multi-ethnicity with diverse potentials and factors making the inability for peaceful co-existence and indolence among both the Christian and the Muslim. But should not religion and politics be intertwined? Since we are religiously conscious in all dealings, the one political consciousness is also religiously intertwined. However, we have in our heart humanity, to be moral and immoral, our conscience explains so definitely, while pursuing our political interest, let’s have it at the back of our minds that the opponent, is human too. Therefore, either religion channels a course of amphetamine, let’s also think that the next person is also human, this will allow us to respect human life, its sanctity and quality.
Clearly defined also, is that each religion has in it the golden rule which should be effective and respected because the rule serves as a universal maxim, or a locus clasicus of lore and endurance to the others. Also, the notion of superiority should be extremely nipped off since God can neither be a Muslim or Christian. This idea of dialogue by and large enables peaceful co-existence and harmony.
In recommending, firstly, human life should be respected, each religion should value and respect human life. The sanctity of life is a universal culture that each religion must adhere to without humanity, the existence of a religious conscious heart is void and anomalous. The killings are human, the lives affected are humans and those adherents championing the killings, the Jos crisis, where several lives were lost should necessarily trigger the fact that lives are precious and should not be taken at any cost regardless of the faith one adheres to.
Secondly, since we cannot separate politics from religion practically, although it’s possible ideally, each aspirant should be there and the course that the constitution gives every individual the right to practice his or her own religion as no one would be denied of it. Political leaders should respect the constitution and also, even if corruption cannot be entirely wiped out, but should be minimized so that the resources could be managed extensively between the rich and the poor
Thirdly, apart from political leaders, religious leaders should also enforce a rational teaching in there disperse of their religious teachings. Religious leaders should therefore hold their teachings with the mind that we are all created by one God, despite of our religions, and individual difference we form a relationship which is strictly conscious of our own essence and existence of immunity. This is the part of religious leaders in maintaining an interfaith dialogue.
Having said all, the conclusion is that Nigeria regardless of the plurality can live together in a peaceful atmosphere. Religious conflict does not only limit this peaceful co-existence but also aid indolence. This work has tried to prove this with the above chapters, specifically chapter four.
However, there is limitation as, we must note that all writers earlier than the researcher had done such in one way or the other but, what becomes problematic is that most of these things said are not practicalised by people. The much-talked about religion and conflicts is not a new discourse in man’s existence but are we going to practicalised all recommended? Nothing is too hard to do if we intend to, since challenges are meant to be faced, we need to face this issue, since we are members of one another.
- Cavanaugh W.T. The Myth of Religious Violence (USA: Oxford University Press, 2004)
- Dawkins R. The God Delusion (New York: Honghton Mifflin Company, 2006)
- Fox J. Towards a Dynamic Theory of Ethno-Religious Conflict (ASEN, 1999)
- Higazi A. The Jos crisis; A recurrent Nigeria Tragedy (Abuja: Friedrich-Ebert-Shiftung, 2011)
- Lochhead D. The Dialogical Imperative: a Christian Reflection on Interfaith Encounter (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1988)
- Mark J. Terror in the mind of God: The Global rise of religious violence. (Berkely, CA; University of California a press, 2003)
- Mark J. The new code war? Religions Nationalism confronts the secular state. (Berkely, CA; University of California a Press, 1993)
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