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THEOLOGY

NIGERIAN RELIGIOUS CONFLICTS: PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS

NIGERIAN CONFLICTS: PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS

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NIGERIAN RELIGIOUS CONFLICTS: PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS

1.0 Introduction

Many will testify that the Jos conflict clearly depicts or by locus classicus describes a savage encounter with religious intolerance.

In a country divided by huge geographic and ethnic and religious divisions, theological differences foster conflict and serve as a foundation for displaying religious biases and prejudices, with believers being overly fundamentalistic and extremist in nature.

Naturally, the psycho-social picture of man depicts him as genetically selfish and only concerned with his own interests. However, this does not necessarily explain or interpret man's religious nature.

Mbiti has called the religious essence of man, particularly Africans, as ‘notoriously religious.'1 Perhaps this might sufficiently provide a hypothesis for action that is behind religious strife in Nigeria.

But, given that God cannot be characterised as a Christian or a Muslim, how rational or realistic is it for two notable religions to fight each other, murdering and leaving a psychological aftermath or psycho-negative effect?

However, as we have witnessed in the previous six years with the meeting with the Islamic fundamentalist known as Boko Haram, the underlying cause for religious strife is not just religious but also political. The number of mass killings planned or orchestrated by this extremism is immense.

However, nothing said above has characterised religious conflict; rather, it has merely provided an introduction to what the researcher likes to explore.

1.1Background Of The Study

The effort to grasp what religious conflict is begins with separating the two as a basis for rational clarification. However, we must recognise that the root cause of a religious conflict is a clash of ideologies, beliefs, values, and so on.

The social network coordinated by belief system is so powerful that it can be used to support a cause of war or struggle. This is what Dawkins attempted to clarify when he stated,

Consider… a world without religion. Imagine there were no suicide bombers, 9/11, 7/7, crusades, witch-hunts, gunpowder plots, Indian partition, Israeli/Palestinian conflicts, serb/croat/muslim massacres, or persecution of Jews as Christ-killers…2

Dawkins defined religion as a false, a hallucination similar to scotosis or insanity. When one individual suffers from a hallucination, it is referred to as insanity; when many people suffer from a delusion, it is referred to as religion.3 But is religion actually a delusion?

If that's the case, what exactly do we mean by delusion? ‘It is a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence, especially as a symptom of psychiatric disorder.'4

What is important to note here is that belief in religion serves as the mechanism engineering prominent attacks on the other religion. But is belief the only thing that religion entails? Wood states that

A group or philosophy must be able to demonstrate a combination of (a) belief and/or conviction, (b) practise and/or ethics, and (c) a sense of belonging or community in order to be protected as a religion under existing human rights legislation in the United Kingdom.

In this definition, belief and practise are separated, and the notion of belonging is interesting since it recognises the significance of religion in social relationships.5

However, what we call a sense of belonging must be the outcome of a belief that has been binding on the individual, causing him to react to another because they both belong to a particular religion.

So ‘Belief' is basic and has significant physical and psychological power over the individual in question. Religion as a term refers to something religious. Religion is thus related to God and belief, from which it is derived;

The name “religio” is derived from four Latin verbs: relegere, religare, reeligere, and relinguere. … Religion can be defined as a rereading of objects or phenomena related to God's adoration (relegere). It can be defined as a bond that connects the visible and invisible worlds (religare).

It could be interpreted as a recurrent selection of what has not been lost or neglected. Following his creation (first election), man is chosen a second time to enter into a relationship with the creator (reeligere).

Religion is sometimes defined as the act of abandoning certain possessions in order to be subjugated to others, possibly to a supreme entity (relinquere).6

However, all of these etymological sayings are insufficient to explain the various faiths of today, including atheistic, Godless intellectual religions, and pantheistic religions; hence, “…all of these ways are nominal and etymological definitions; they are important but not sufficient”7.

Even the etymological definitions were terms of many individuals and hence can be criticised as'subjective opinions' in contrast to the objective word named religion. In a nutshell, it should be highlighted that religion is multidimensional and, as such, cannot be defined.

On the other hand, we define conflict as a disagreement between two or more parties that can be physical or psychological in nature. In other words, ‘conflict may be defined as a struggle or contest between people who have opposing needs, ideas, beliefs, values, or goals.'8

The word conflict was derived from the Latin word ‘conflictus,' past participle of confligere, which means “to strike together, be in conflict,” from com- “together” fligere “to strike.”9

We can thus see religious conflict as a disagreement drowned out through religion. However, religious conflict in Nigeria is not only religious in nature, but also politically motivated, as Marshall points out,'recently, the president of Nigeria was forceful in saying the Nigerian conflict has nothing to do intrinsically with religion, which is used as an excuse by politicians'10.

Nigeria, in my opinion, is a country endowed with huge geographical landmarks, a country with several ethnic groups and dialects, and a country with four major languages: English, Yoruba, Igbo, and Hausa.

It is home to three major religions: Islam, Christianity, and African traditional religion. However, the first two are notable, whilst the third is not. It is said in a publication titled, reducing violence in Nigeria (11): the boko haram insurgency, that;

Nigeria is a fragmented country'. It is rich, but Nigerians are poor, many of them extremely poor… its members come from various ethnic, political, and religious communities; when they agree on how to divide the spoils, everything is fine,

but when they disagree, they politicise, manipulate, and instrumentalize ethno-religious and regional differences. With the failure of administration and development, a rising number of ethnic militias, separatist organisations, and millenarian religious movements are being mobilised for self-defense as well as pursuing ideological and practical goals…11

Jos, the capital of one of Nigeria's states, is located on the plateau. There has been a series of rivalries between different groups, therefore their licence plate has changed from

“Home of peace and tourism”12 to “Home of crises and religious conflict,” as Campbell and Harwood stated.

Jos, though, is no longer a West African utopia. Bloody “religious” riots, reportedly between Christians and Muslims, shattered the town in 2001, 2008, and 2010. The most recent round, which began in 2011, is still ongoing.

According to the Nigeria security tracker (NST) of the Council on Foreign Relations, there were 785 sectarian-related deaths in plateau state alone between May 29, 2011, and June 30, 2013.

Between January and June 2013, 481 persons were slain, accounting for 61% of all deaths since May 2011…13

Furthermore, no religious conflict in the country is entirely religious until ethnicity plays a role in it. Nigeria as a is bound by many ethnicities or ethnic groupings, hence Higazi observed that “the dominant discourses in the conflict refer to political exclusion based on ethnicity and religion…14.”

Concerning the political goal for which religion is used as a means, it should be underlined that violence in Jos is the result of “…discrimination and bias in government, as well as the narrow ethnic and religious politics among both Christians and Muslims, which increased tension and polarisation along communal lines”15.

The Islamic religion, as mentioned by Igboin, exemplifies the reality that religion and politics are strongly intertwined in Nigeria.

When one examines the pattern of these actual and attempted attacks, it is clear that… Muslim people are involved, and Islam as a religion has received a negative public image, leading to islamophobia, radicalization of the religion, and a reinforced, deliberated, or inadvertent interest in the debate over the symbols of religion and politics…16

However, it is clear that Islam is the faith that has produced the greatest conflict. In recent times, the religion has been at odds with modern and technological progress, claiming that Islam adopts a composite perspective of life that combines the holy and temporal worlds into a single and undifferentiated totality with a divine mandate or guidance.

These structures are seen as irreconcilable with modernity and its pluralist values…17.As a result, the disappearance of God, as seen in the West, is an invitation to jihad in contemporary society…18.

Another significant difficulty in that the source of conflict is fear of dominance. This is aptly stated when Higazi elucidated that, ‘the dominant discourses in the conflicts refer to,… on the Muslim, and fears of religious and cultural domination among plateau christains.'19

Furthermore, Higazi noted that, ‘there is much political propaganda, inciting religious and cultural fears- such as the Muslim conspiracy to Islamize Nigeria…'20 While speaking on the cause of ethic-religious conflict, Owutu noted that, ‘one of

When one group acquires power, it exploits state institutions to transfer economic and political benefits preferentially to their ethnic brethren, resulting in discrimination against members of inferior groups.

As a result, this exacerbates a sense of shared need and deepens identification with their group, providing a foundation for ethnic-based political mobilization.22

Another sacred point is noted by Owutu as the cause of religious conflict, which Akowonjo described as the indigenship and settlers division.23 This is significant according to these two writers in the plateau ethnic and religious crisis.24

Furthermore, Ibrahim noted by Owutu explain that,'religion and ethnicity were the major variables that influenced the 2004 ethnic-religious reprisal attacks in Kano state…'25 From 2004 to 2009, before the emergence of In May 1990, there were disturbances in Zaria (Kaduna state), during which property belonging to primarily Christians was destroyed.

So, in December 1990, in Kano, there were riots by the Maitatsine sect, in which 4,177 people died and substantial properties were destroyed.26 It is worth noting that incalculable lives had been lost, while homes had been burned and people had been displaced as a result of religious conflict in Nigeria.

But what is the solution? This necessitates religious interaction between the religions involved. Inter-religious discussion is conducted in order to foster peace, security, and, most importantly, to dispel fundamentalist preconceptions.

Instead of striving to kill or maim in the name of proving that our religion is superior to all others, we must keep in mind what Comte refers to as the religion of humanity, which, in my own microscopic eyes, asks for the sanctity of humanity and human beings.

Similarly, Kaigama believes that “there must be a shift from competitiveness to genuine encounter.” Meaningful discussion across groups is required… we must regain its integrity and foster peace and reconciliation.'27 But what exactly is dialogue?

Dialogue is the meeting of people of different religions and faiths in a free and open environment where each person can listen to and understand himself and the other. One person speaks, another listens and reacts, and so on.

[Furthermore], conversation is the process of working and travelling together in quest of what is good and right, with the intention to live together and in communion. Dialogue means living together despite our differences…28

Furthermore, unlike the simple notion of man's sanctity of life, grasping the nature of God is a perennial difficulty. However, the God-consciousness in these two religions is fundamentally different, whereas the object ‘God' is universally neutral in these two religions.

The conflictuum in these two religions is nothing more than the experience of God, but phenomenologically speaking, reality is agnostic and can never be linked to either of these religions. If it does, God's absoluteness will be called into question.

By the value of religious discourse and tolerance, man's sanctity of life is dependent on the golden rule, a simple guideline that maintains everyone's life. If both religions focus solely on the golden rule, religious strife would be focused on the past rather than the present.

In the science of religion, ‘he who knows one knows none'; knowledge and belief of Christianity can never be used to support knowledge of belief and others, and neither can the other. As a result, regardless of their beliefs or understanding, both religions must see themselves as human.

All of the aforementioned, however, is simply an interview of what the researcher aims to explain in the research effort. The research work would provide further information.

1.2 Of The Problem

Religious intolerance, biases, and prejudices have resulted in the maiming of many individuals as a result of one religion claiming to be greater, more significant than the other at the height of religious crisis and war. Furthermore, the government's failure to manage the issues it faces is a source of concern.

Diversity is not the problem in and of itself, but the interplay is that of the inability to unite all religions under one single and formidable government. Apart from religious diversity, there is also cultural diversity, so it can be summed up as “religious cultural diversity” posing a fundamental and perennial problem within the state.

As a result of the aforementioned problem or issue, religious discourse is being called for in order to erase such preconceived views and notions, as well as to put an end to killing and destruction of various properties.

1.3 Aims and objectives

It is critical to recognise that Nigeria is a multi-ethnic society founded on religious tolerance.

The primary goal of this research is to find a solution to religious intolerance, which is a mechanism for violence, conflict, and crises.

It also aims to clarify what religious conflict is and to let devotees of diverse religions recognise the similarities and distinctions in their faith, allowing them to see that no religion is greater or better than the other.

1.4 Limitations and Scope

Due to the vastness of the country, the research would be unable to obtain primary sources from victims of religious conflict. Furthermore, there would be a financial constraint that would act as a constraint. However, the researcher must make every effort to obtain facts, even if he comes across literature that will be negative owing to their own biases and prejudice.

1.5 Methodology

During the course of my research, I shall use an analytical method. It will compare faiths in the country in order to produce a meaning resolution. It will also place a strong emphasis on secondary texts such as textbooks, periodicals, newspapers, and online resources. Etc.

1.6 Definition of terms

Religion is an organised set of ideas, cultural systems, and world views that humans use to maintain order in their lives.29

A significant incompatibility between two or more points of view, principles, or interests.30

Nigeria is a West African republic and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. It was originally a British colony and protectorate. 356,669 sp. mi. (923,773 square km). Abuja is the capital. 31

The method or process of solving a problem, as well as the answer or disposition of an issue.32

1.7 Conclusion

Finally, this chapter has provided a quick overview of the research. It has described what conflict is and what religious conflict is, and it has done so within the framework.

As a result, the following chapter will examine the works of scholars who have made significant contributions to the research.

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