Religion, which by nature has the capacity to engender peace and harmony has been described as a two edge sword which when wrongly exploited provokes division and conflict, but correctly harnessed bring healing, reconciliation and harmony.
This position was posited by Bishop Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo of Oyo Diocese in a paper titled Religion and Peaceful Coexistence in Nigeria; at a national Seminar organized in Abuja, recently by the Knights of St John International. The ceremony took place at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja.
According to the bishop: “When religions engage in a process of pocketing or owning God or act of ordering or demonizing others in God’s name, they become sources of conflict. Many crusades and Jihads were based on this tendency. Tied to this is the exclusion of people by denying them rights and opportunities mainly for reasons of religious affiliation, which alienates them from loyalty to the society. These are areas where religion has acquired its bad reputation in some minds.”
He continued: “In spite of all this, religion by nature has the capacity to engender peace and harmony. It is merely a two edged sword which when exploited provokes division and conflict and when correctly harnessed bring healing, reconciliation and harmony. In our current multicultural, multiethnic, multi-religious reality, it is necessary to convince all stake holders in Nigeria that it is in the interest of each of these religions to ensure the well being of the other granted as has been verified that we have no choice but to live together.”
Pointing out that religions from the right perspective teach and promote peace, love and harmony in the name of God, Bishop Badejo spoke extensively on societal agents that tend to make religion a pivot of crisis and violence. He outlined to include: emotive nature of religion; exclusion of some religions from the perks and privileges granted to one religion in some parts of the country; influence of bad religious leaders and misinterpretation of the holy books, intolerance of desperate adherents in the area of conversion as well as the influence of politics and ethnic rivalry.
According to the bishop, the three major religions in the country, Christianity, Islam and African Traditional Religion have long history and tradition and “all teach the values of justice, love of neighbour, righteous living and care of creatures.” He added: “The three religions have also contributed to the formation of human society in various degrees by imbuing millions of their adherents with the values of peace, love, solidarity and service.”
Bishop Badejo while suggesting the way out for the realization of peaceful coexistence, spoke extensively on the two religions of Christianity and Islam as they affect the Nigerian nation in the areas of: religious hypocrisy, similarities and differences of the two religions, the peace project, foundation of peace, peaceful coexistence, points of intervention, the responsibility of religion, prophetic voice and authentic interpretation, constitutionality and role of the judiciary. Others are: education and public enlightenment, role of the proposed National Conference, building a value-based society, media campaign, practice of authentic religion and effective understanding of interreligious relations, restoring confidence in the Nigerian youths, Christianity’s prerogative to be peacemakers and importance of inter religious dialogue.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference Episcopal Chairman for Social Communications concluded: “Instigating violence that excludes others through fundamentalism, extremism or terrorism in the name of God or Allah is a serious interference in God’s territory of creation and peaceful coexistence. It is trying to possess God who is beyond religion. God’s focus is the well being of his creatures and not their destruction. By living according to his ways, we are saving our lives.”
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