Nigeria’s path to Religious Tolerance & the NCEF

Our national independence was hard fought by many prominent personalities from all works of life, from various parts of the country and of course with a different understanding of faith. Prominently, the likes of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Tafawa Balewa, Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Amodu Bello, Anthony Enahoro and Herbert Macaulay irrespective of their socio-religious background stood together to give us a country called Nigeria. Nigeria has over 180 Million citizens, with a dominance of Muslims in the North and Christians in the South.

Over the years since the independence, Presidents of the country has either been Muslim or Christain. According to the constitution governing the country, Nigeria remains a secular state where faith or religion has no dictation in governance and administration of the country, be it a Christian, Muslim, Buddist, Hindu or even Athiest.

Nigeria parliamentary system of governance has representation from all geo-political zones of the country in House of Senates and House of Representatives with the aim of checkmating President’s power and action. Even though, political parties field their candidates based on religious stands; a reason you see a President who is a Muslim having Vice President that will be a Christain. A case of the current political dispensation.

Of recent, The Nigerian Christians Elders Forum (NCEF), an affiliate of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), issued a communique criticizing the President of the country of fatally Islamizing the country. This criticism was in reaction to the political appointments by the President, court injunctions on civil matters and extra judicial killings in various parts of the country. What the NCEF failed to realize is the expected role in raising the flag of National unity and tolerance. As a religious body NCEF attached Islam to the evils perpetrated by miscreants.

It should be known that Islam as a religion of peace categorically condemns killing of innocents, taking one’s life by suicide, or exercise one’s freedom to infringe rights of others. True Islam teaches peace and how to live in absolute harmony with neighbors irrespective of tribe or faith. Islam propagates tolerance and peaceful coexistence among citizens.

Some who failed to understand or act in line with the true teachings of Islam should not mean that you hold the religion responsible for the atrocities committed by criminals either for their personal or political gains. Nigeria has been witnessing a sharp increase in crimes like abductions, looting , ritual killings and child abuse in many parts of the country, especially in the Southern Christian part of the country . NCEF did not come attach these criminalities to religious beliefs of these criminals.

It is high time the religious organizations in Nigeria rise up to the challenges facing the country by preaching tolerance, peace, harmony in their respective worship places and not push religion into government affairs.

Religious bodies should wake up to create an avenue to organize joint conferences on religion that will promote peace in the country and provide a common platform to advise the government on the state of the nation. This can also help showcase beautiful teachings of each religion, establish common grounds and enlighten many citizens.

Criminal acts in any form, which go against the constitution of the country should be outrightly condemned by the religious bodies in totality without attaching it to either one religion or region. Constructive solutions to national crises should be proffered instead of engaging in criticism that will fuel further unrest.

The peaceful reign of our country should continue to be our collective responsibilities and just like the forefathers of this nation, who all come together, without a doubt, to create a nation we proudly call ours today.

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Mujeeb is a freelance writer, humanitarian, social commentator. He is the Secretary Muslim Writers Guild Nigeria (MASQ).
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