Strategies For Improving Inter-Faith Relationships In Nigeria (A Case Study Of Christian Association Of Nigeria [CAN])

Project and Seminar Material for Theology and Biblical Studies

Strategies For Improving Inter-Faith Relationships In Nigeria (A Case Study Of Christian Association Of Nigeria [CAN])


Abstract


This study investigated the strategies for improving inter-faith relationships in Nigeria. It is obvious that religion crises have been a major deep concern in recent times. Many of them wonder why religion which used to be the cohesive factor and core of national unity, peaceful co-existence and national development has become a tool for political manipulation, violence, destruction of lives and property in Nigeria in contemporary time. The study critically discussed the roles of inter-faith relationships in Nigeria. It further explained the factors that bring about religious conflict. It concluded by stating the steps to take in order to improve inter-faith relationships in Nigeria to ensure unity and progress with one another.


Chapter One


Introduction

1.1 Background to the Study

Nigeria is associated with a history of violence that has always been caused by conflict between Christian and Muslim groups. These clashes seem endemic, with the Plateau and Kaduna States experiencing some of the worst violence. More recently, the terrorist group associated with Islamist group known as Boko Haram which has been responsible for numerous brutal attacks and thousands of deaths in the North eastern regions like Yobe, Borno, Adamawa and Gombe State. Religion is only one factor in these conflicts; other factors include ethnic divisions, disputes between locals and migrants, land ownership, class conflict, and the burden of a colonial past. Local administrators have made efforts towards conflict resolution, but some stipulated aspects of the proposed solutions have been rejected by religious leaders. Since 1995, however, a new effort has taken place in Kaduna, Plateau, and other areas, with notable success and growing international recognition. More specifically, this study focuses on the strategies for improving inter-faith relationships in Nigeria.

Nigeria is a state where Islam, Christianity and traditional African religions are freely practised. Nigeria’s two major religions, Islam and Christianity, are sometimes seen as heavyweights that confront each other in the battle field. Religious beliefs and values are an important feature of the daily lives of many families and communities in the country (Kukah 1993). It should also be noted that traditional beliefs, values and practices have a powerful impact upon our patterns of life and social interaction, as do the beliefs, values and practices of the many religions that have flourished in the country. Nigeria is clearly a prototype state in accommodating divergent religious fault-lines. With a population of over 150 million and over 250 ethno-linguistic groups, it is the only country with a population of approximately half Christians and half Muslims (Paden 2008; Kwaja 2009). Still today most violent conflicts contain religious elements linked up with ethno national, inter-state, economic, territorial and cultural issues. Conflicts based on religion tend to become dogged, tenacious and brutal (Kazah-Toure 2003; Kwaja 2008).

In Nigeria, religious crisis are so common nowadays that some of them are now obviously fuelled by self-seeking individuals and groups to feather their selfish interests. There are various examples of the religious crises which are not even related with religion but primarily based on ethnic and political origin. Religion is exploited in this manner because it is the most vulnerable since adherents of the various religions, which are considered divine, can be very easily manipulated to fight for “God’s cause” dogmatically without reservation. Also, the continued terrorist attacks by Boko Haram have muffled any possibility of a meaningful and healthy engagement between the Christian and Muslim communities. Instead of working together to advance shared values, the conflict often inspires anti-Islam bigotry and extreme hate Islam sentiments.

However, religion should be seen as a versatile tool for fostering brotherhood and sisterhood among all human races. The diversity in religions as well as different ethnic background therefore must be a source of harmony and unity. In order for true development to buoyant in our society, we need unity and harmony at all levels of religion in the country. We must all have it at the back of our minds that we all came to this world with nothing and shall go back with nothing except the evidence of our hand work. This study will investigate the strategies for improving inter-faith relationships in Nigeria.


1.2 Statement of the Problem

Nigeria today is currently experiencing problems to peace and unity than ever before. The various regions in the country, the Northern part of the country, the South West, and the Niger Delta, are a volatile mix of insecurity, ethno religious conflict and political instability. Thousands have been killed in riots between the two major religious groups sparked by various events: aggressive campaigns by foreign evangelists; the implementation in 1999 and 2000 of Sharia, or Islamic law, in 12 of Nigeria’s 36 states; and the 2002 Miss World pageant saga which resulted into another religious imbroglio when a local Christian reporter, Isioma Daniel, outraged Muslims by writing in one of Nigeria’s national papers, This Day, that the Prophet Mohammed would have chosen a wife from among the contestants. Additionally, the 2006 riots was triggered by Danish cartoons with the Prophet Mohammed left sent a lot of people to their early graves in Nigeria than anywhere else in the world (This Day September 2006). The attention to the role of religion in conflicts has been stimulated by positive and negative developments, including the desecularisation of Nigeria’s polity and the rise of religious conflicts. Also, important has been the phenomenon of continuous armed religious conflict which has spread quickly across other states in the country (Mason and Talbot 2000; Polgreen 2008).


1.3 Research Questions

This research will be carried out to answer the following research questions:

  1. What are the strategies for improving inter-faith relationships in Nigeria?
  2. What are the impacts of inter-faith relationships on the national unity in Nigeria?
  3. What is the prevalence of inter-faith relationships in Nigeria?

1.4 Objectives of the Study

The broad objective of this study is to investigate the strategies for improving inter-faith relationships in Nigeria. The specific objectives include:

  1. To examine the strategies for improving inter-faith relationships in Nigeria.
  2. To identify the impacts of inter-faith relationships on the national unity in Nigeria.
  3. To inquire the prevalence of inter-faith relationships in Nigeria.

1.5 Significance of the Study

The research will be conducted with the respondents who practice any of the three major religions (Christianity, Islam and African traditional) in Nigeria. It will enable us to understand their views on inter-faith relationships and how it can be achieved. It will as well serve as a foundation upon which further research can be conducted and it will help in the area of Religious Studies.


1.6 Scope of the Study

This study will be carried out with religion leaders in some selected states across Nigeria.


1.7 Limitation of the study

The study will be faced with a lot of challenges and one it the problem of finance. There is not going to be enough funds to print questionnaires and to also transport the researcher to meet the desired respondents. Another one is time; the researcher is currently busy with the demand of his academics. A lot of assignments are available for the researcher to do and coupled with his desire to read and learn at the same time. These are the major challenges of this study.


1.8 Definitions of Terms

The following terms were used in the course of this study:

Harmony:

Agreement or concord.

Inter-Faith:

Relating to, between, or involving different religions

Relationship:

The way in which two or more people or organizations regard and behave toward each other.

Religion:

A pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance

Strategies:

A plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.


Strategies For Improving Inter-Faith Relationships In Nigeria (A Case Study Of Christian Association Of Nigeria [CAN])


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Strategies For Improving Inter-Faith Relationships In Nigeria (A Case Study Of Christian Association Of Nigeria [CAN])


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