One of the cardinal issues strangulating religious harmony in Nigeria is the deliberate and sometimes ignorance-propelled fanaticism that has eaten deep into the psyche of some faithful both within Christendom and Islam, the two major religions in Nigeria. Freedom of expression does not subsume the irresponsible evocation of divisionist sentiments echoed through inter-religious mudslinging. Growing up in a multi-ethnic and religiously diverse city of Jos, one had been bred to believe that all Nigerians were one, owing to the selfless camaraderie that punctuated the goings-on of those nostalgic times. My Primary School, Baptist Primary School, Bukuru, a Christian Missionary School was facing the Islamiya Primary School, a Muslim Missionary School, the only distance between the two schools was the express road that connected residents in Bukuru to their counterparts in Jos town. It is not out of place to state here that the closeness of these two schools was symbolic of their founders’ appreciation of the spirit of harmony. As primary school pupils, some of us were able to chant some of the surahs of the Holy Quaran as our teachers made us realize the fact that both Islam and Christianity were two sides of the same coin. We had instances where some Christian students took lessons in Islamic Religious Knowledge and vice-versa.
We must praise missions such as the Islamiya, the Baptist, the Anglican, the Methodist, the Roman Catholic, the Adventist and a host of others who laid the foundations for Nigeria’s educational glory. Each of these missions has had an impact on the lives of most Governors, Ministers, Senators and the like. In short, these missions inspired a generation of sound education based on high ethical standards. Suddenly, things went gaga! A dispensation of sanity and clarity is overtaken by an era of obscurity, of mental schisms and other isms. An era when the demonized lay claim to the monopoly of the Holy Spirit. An age of the hollow men.
Let us begin with Christianity. There are those Christians who proclaim that only their denominations would make it to heaven. In this case, they cast aspersions on the Roman Catholic and Anglican. They fault the concepts of the Annunciation as well as the Nativity. They believe that Catholics and Anglicans are ritualists because of the ceremonial nature of the Eucharist. To these set of people, you can be idling away while the Holy Spirit possesses you. That is why you hear about strange cases of evangelical aberrations such as the celebrated saga of one reverend King. Some of them incite religious crises with their irresponsible statements. It takes an irresponsible person to publicly condemn the person of Prophet Mohammed (SAW) who lived a very plain but exalted life in the service of mankind. The English version of the Quaran is there for anyone who wishes to learn. Any Alfa or Islamic evangelist who condemns the person of Jesus is also not enlightened. The only dichotomy one has noticed as an interested researcher is Islam’s sincere views about God’s Paternity to Jesus; a concept solidly enshrined in Roman Catholicism. Yes, Islam deserves an explanation! Apart from this, the two religions have no need to engage in unnecessary fuss. To achieve religious harmony in Nigeria, there must be concentrated efforts towards educating our young ones about the dynamics of these two religions right from Primary One to Six. If possible, the Federal Ministry of Education should make Christian Religious Studies and Islamic Religious Studies compulsory for all primary school pupils. I mean, whether Christian or Muslim, the two are compulsory. This can help mitigate the level of ignorance which the perpetrators of religious crises capitalize upon to unleash mayhem on the nation.
The greatest substance of religion from Buddhism to Traditional African Religion is love. Your religion is the best and you are the brother of Jesus, yet you disturb your neighbours’ peace with your orgy of nocturnal noise pollution. You are the most dedicated Muslim woman on earth, yet you defy civil norms and become a masquerade in the name of purity to scare the hell out of little children. Ignorance must be tamed for us to achieve anything good from the religious angle. That pastor pontificating about salvation and paradise; has he read the Quaranic version of these realities? What about that Alfa that knows everything? Has he read the Holy Bible before? Have these two considered their religious perspectives against the world-view of African Traditional Religion? Until this is done, people will continue to parade themselves as men of God while turning the masses against one another in the name of religion. Somebody shout Halleluyah…Alhamdililahi Rabil Alamin…No discriminations!